The Millennium Tower is sinking. The reports have been circulating for over a year now, and they have finally been confirmed by City Supervisor Aaaron Peskin and the head of the stabilisation project, Ronald Hamburger.
San Francisco’s tallest and most expensive residential tower is sinking – and bending — just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and at a fairly alarming rate. In 2021 the building tilted 7 centimetres (2.7 inches) in both the north and west directions.
“We start this new year 2022 as we ended last year and many other years, with the Millennium Tower continuing to sink and tilt,” city supervisor Aaron Peskin said at last week’s hearing, according to NBC.
An unhappy fate for what was supposed to be the flagship of San Francisco’s financial district when it was opened in 2009. The two buildings were designed by Handel Architects and built by Millennium Partners, and the larger houses 419 luxury apartments.
It was a dream that was short-lived. By the end of last year, the Main Tower had sunk 40 centimetres (15 inches).
The race against time to save the Millennium Tower
It only took a few years for the effects of the complex’s settlement to be seen with the naked eye. Cracks in the walls, raised sidewalks, and damage in the basement of the second building, which is 12 stories lower than the basement in the main tower.
The residents were notified of the problem in 2016, and first lawsuits erupted. Some of them had paid over $5 million for the apartments and now found themselves with considerable losses on their hands in light of the building’s structural damage. In 2017, an investigation conducted by the San Francisco administration confirmed that the building was safe to inhabit, although damage to the foundation and electrical system was found. A project to stabilise the Millennium Tower was announced in October 2020, at a cost of $100 million. The construction site is now open and work is expected to be completed at the end of 2022. The plan calls for 52 steel-clad concrete columns to be installed at foundation level reaching 76 metres (250 feet) deep, where the clay soil gives way to rocks.
This would be the only way to zero in on the buildings’ fluctuations, which have continued in recent weeks. However, in a letter sent to residents of the buildings, expert Ronald Hamburger explained that the very removal of the soil for the laying of the piles is causing new “ground vibrations” and promoting further tilting of the tower.
The tower that dominates downtown San Francisco: construction history
The complex operation of anchoring the two skyscrapers to the ground and consolidating them (the taller one reaches a height of 197 metres, or 646 feet) obscures the beauty and features of one of the most modern and luxurious residential complexes in America.
A project approved in 2003 by the San Francisco Planning Commission followed by six years of construction until its grand opening on April 23, 2009. The 301 Mission Street complex is a major commercial real estate development because an estimated initial investment of $350 million reaped a value of $750 million in 2013 after all the apartments were sold. This was the flagship of South of Market, San Francisco’s downtown district, where a penthouse sold for $13 million and where from the 26th floor up the apartments were given the name “Grand Residence,” to emphasize the luxury of the real estate offerings and the high cost of the homes.
Today, luxury and beauty are still intact, while residents are waiting for the complex consolidation work on the structure so that they can get a good night’s sleep.