Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rainy Days on Sutter Street

I've gotten into the habit of taking a great walk around the circumference of Nob Hill marking a rectangle of 7 by 9 blocks, a little over 2 1/2 miles or about 4k, bounded by Powell, Sutter, Polk, and Broadway. Each corridor is fairly different from the other, whether upscale residential along Pine, art student bohemian along Sutter, hotels and restaurants centered on Geary and Bush, busy and quaint along Polk, or on the skids into The Tenderloin and its vibrant, bruising color via any turn further down Nob Hill.
Of all the streets along this long walk, Sutter is the most interesting to me right now. It's still the most unfamiliar, very urban, and seems to be in an interesting state of transition. It also has incredible architecture and was once called The Apartment District, a white collar area between the wealthy top of Nob Hill and the grittier Tenderloin and Civic Center.

Sutter Street isn't exactly off-the-radar but it feels like it's emerging after decades of decline, ready to regain its appeal as a downtown destination. In the rain the district still reflects the flickering noir legacy of Dashiell Hammett -- a nearby steep stairway-street is named for him -- and the thrill of Vertigo-era Hitchcock -- a theme hotel at 940 Sutter, no less.

The Empire Plush Room at The Vertigo Hotel on Sutter Street
Today, there's a few too many empty storefronts here but enough new and interesting businesses too. Housing is available but is either expensive or kind of sketchy and not all that cheap, which is better than a lot of The City in this economic climate. There's plenty of people around to make neighborhood feel fairly safe. OK, relatively safe compared to what's going on four or five blocks south in the heart of the TL. This state of affairs usually means the neighborhood is ascendent, soon to be desirable, on the cusp.
Sutter Street Eastward

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