Originally Posted by pesto
Union and Perhshing Sq. are not all that different. Each was built with excessive concrete and hard edges to discourage the homeless from living there. The parking entrances are not all that different either.
The real difference is demand. There are well-to-do people sufficiently close to Union Sq. to drive or take a cab to keep the very upscale, BH-style stores thriving. This is hard to picture for DT at least for now. I would guess that Macy's is about as high-end as could be hoped for, excluding hotel shops.
I agree on a couple points but disagree on others. The parking ramps are light years apart in Union Square and Pershing Square.
I've spent some time in SF, and I am convinced that the parking ramps, in combination with the walls that face outward in Pershing Sq. vs the stairs that meet the street in Union Square, make all the difference. Even more so than the actual built environment inside the park, since Union Square is mostly concrete as well.
Just look at a satellite view on Google Earth of Union Square's four ramps vs. Pershing's four ramps. All that available entry/stair space, and all that sidewalk space is just eaten away by long ramps at Pershing.
Otherwise, you'll note a similar amount of concrete/green space and even similar programmatical features (amphitheater etc) at both parks.
Of course, the neighborhood retail environment does play a role in demand. That's where Brigham's suggestions are very pertinent. Unfortunately, I don't think you'll be able to move those businesses out anytime soon. That's too bad because they shut down at 5:30 every evening and hinder pedestrian flow between 7th/Financial District and the Historic Core.
Anyway, I think if you replaced Union Square with Pershing Square in SF, it would face many of the same problems we do now. The homeless problem is similar in Union Square/Tenderloin to Pershing Square/Historic Core.