It seemed like the last place one might invest a billion dollars on an office building in October 2020.
San Francisco’s downtown symbolized all that had gone wrong with American cities during the pandemic. The empty office towers. The shops and restaurants boarded up with plywood. The dirty streets, the petty crime, the eerily silent transit stations.
But Michael Shvo, the New York real estate titan, decided there was one building he had to have here, one that has been synonymous with the San Francisco skyline: the Transamerica Pyramid.
Mr. Shvo paid $650 million for the tower on San Francisco’s Montgomery Street, long hailed as “the Wall Street of the West” for its concentration of financial institutions, including the insurance company after which the triangular skyscraper is named. He then spent another $400 million to renovate the tower and turn it into an attraction for businesses and visitors alike.
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