SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – An historic federal building in the heart of San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza was ground zero for a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday, ahead of a major seismic retrofit project.

“You’re right in the middle of one big, giant construction project,” declared Jeff Neely, regional administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration.

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KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

Neely emphasized that the historic elements of 50 UN Plaza would remain, but would be redone with a decidedly “green” touch.

“The greenest building is not the new building that you construct to meet standards, it’s the old building that you preserve, like 50 UNP,” he explained.

The GSA was expected to move into the 74-year-old federal building when work was finished – in 2014, by early estimates.

The $120 million project was funded through the Federal Recovery Act and was expected to put 1,300 people to work.

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“I just want folks to remember this moment because it really is a notable moment in the revitalization of our city,” declared Mayor Gavin Newsom at the groundbreaking.

He described it as a pivotal moment in the effort to revitalize San Francisco’s dilapidated mid-Market neighborhood.

“We’re getting close to a tipping point here. And I’m really convinced that in 2013, the end of 13, 14, when this is done we’ll have reached that tipping point and arguably beyond.”

When complete, the building would not only be seismically sound, but energy efficient, with a LEED “gold” certification.

“GSA is taking bold new steps with an innovative, open office environment, natural ventilation and natural illumination,” Neely summed up.

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