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Huge downtown tower inches forward

Coit Tower. The Golden Gate Bridge. The Transamerica Pyramid. The Jesus-Loves-You guy who hangs out in front of Forever 21.

The picturesque SF icons will soon be getting company, now that the Planning Commission is set to approve a long-delayed project.

The building, known as the Hines tower — at this point, named after the developer — spent a long time on the back burner when the economy flopped. It  crept back into the spotlight in March, after which its design was altered to make room for connections between itself and the new Transbay Transit Center, under construction right next door.

Its crown has also been tweaked to make it more distinctive against the skyline. The 1,070-foot-tall tower is now set to have a metal slit at its peak instead of a glass and steel band that thinned out the higher it went, Fred Clarke, an architect with Pelli Clarke Pelli, told the Chron:

“We wanted something visible at urban scale but almost Zen-like in its simplicity.”

Other rad perks of the new building include a half-acre plaza east of the snazzy structure, also built by Hines. A diagonal elevator will sweep guests down to the improved Transbay station.

A few months ago, Mayor Ed Lee approved a plan for the Transit Center District, a special development district that allows towers that exceed The City’s previous height limit. Revenue from approval of the towers helps fund the rebuilt Transbay center.

One issue not yet resolved is funding. After the project’s main backer, Met Life, pulled out this summer, Hines faces a deadline at month’s end  to pay $185 million to help build the transit center.

Smooth sailing could prompt construction as early as 2013, according to Paul Paradis, a senior managing director at Hines.

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