LUMINA's condos work to make Rincon Hill a neighborhood.

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Lumina’s sexy, slinky condos work to make Rincon Hill a neighborhood.

If you have a fetish for voluptuous towers, LUMINA may be just your style — two smooth shafts with plenty of curves, slinky and taut, in skin-tight wraps of cobalt blue. But this upscale complex at the base of fast-growing Rincon Hill shouldn’t be judged on skyline looks alone. It also must be a good neighbor in a setting where, so far, the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Now LUMINA is complete, and the ground-level moves aren’t nearly as seductive as those in the air. But they’re a strong addition to their surroundings, and likely to get better with age.

Easy to miss in the glassy thicket that has sprouted alongside the Bay Bridge during the past decade, LUMINA is imposing nonetheless: a pair of 37- and 42-story high-rises step up from two eight-story buildings. The shared foundation doubles as a parking garage, and the amenity spaces for residents of the 656 condominiums include a climbing wall, a soundproof music studio and a plush screening room. As with other Rincon Hill towers, LUMINA aspires to be a self-contained comfort zone. But it’s a key block in the hill’s transition from a blue-collar backwater into a sky-scraping residential address. Zoning was changed in 2005 to make this happen, with an emphasis on neighborhood amenities as well as housing production.

That’s why I’ve held off on reviewing LUMINA, even though the second tower opened its doors to residents last year. Two essential pieces were missing until last month: a 9,500-square-foot grocery store, at the corner of Folsom and Main, and a mid-block plaza between LUMINA’S south edge and the Bay Area Metro Center. The latter, home to several regional government agencies, occupies a surprisingly inviting remake of an industrial block by Perkins + Will. The plaza, designed by landscape architect Pam Burton and built by LUMINA’S developer, Tishman Speyer, shows the difficulty of place-making in this part of town. It doesn’t really connect to anything. Not much is going on.

Burton’s response is to turn constraints into assets and carve out a tiered space where small spaces jostle together.

The first thing you notice is a broad path of concrete pavers, a stark clearing required because occasionally it will need to serve as a driveway to a loading dock for the Metro Center. Burton compensates by stacking the landscape along it with fern-covered berms, gingko trees and boulders that double as seating. One area is conceived as a patio. Another, higher up and partly intended to hide LUMINA’S parking garage, has a raised seating bar — a perch where locals can spread out a lunch and watch the passing scene.

So far the scene is mostly people walking back and forth, but some pause to lounge on the benches and boulders. Another seating option is at the east end: Burton handled the site’s 9-foot grade change with a wooden staircase to Main Street wide enough to include amphitheater-styled seating. When people do linger in the plaza, it’s a good bet they have food or drinks from Woodlands Market around the corner.

Read More at San Francisco Chronicle

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