(CNN)In a city where property is at premium, the old San Francisco Shipyard has long sat on a sizable and potentially valuable expanse of vacant land.
Building on the 'last developable piece of land in San Francisco'
The once bustling docks were an active part of this famous old city for more than a century until they were shuttered in the 1970s.
On one side stood the fabled Candlestick Park, where the likes of American baseball great Willie Mays wowed fans.
On the other, the Shipyard itself served the U.S. Navy, employing over 4,000 people.
After it shut down, the 2.8 million square meter area was deemed a toxic superfund site, which required $800 million and years to clean up.
"(The yard) has been sitting undeveloped and it is the last developable piece of land within San Francisco," said Sheryl McKibben, sales and marketing VP at urban developer Lennar Urban.
Now, an $8 billion project to revitalize the area is bringing the yard back to into service -- albeit in a very different way.
New condos, townhouses, shopping malls, parks and art spaces will see the vast plot once again play an active part in San Francisco life.
There are even plans to entice Silicon Valley players situated an hour north into the Shipyard.
But in a town where booming property prices are a contentious topic, making sure the new development caters for the many and not just the few has been factored into planning.
As part of a deal with the city, developers have had to reserve a third of the 12,000 homes for affordable housing. They have also had to commit to providing local training and jobs.
According to city activist Veronica Hunnicut it's incredible such a valuable piece of land so close to the center of the city has remained unused for so long.
"It doesn't make sense that you would have that much land -- that could be remediated and could be used for housing and other job opportunities for people here in the city -- that it would remain languishing for that long," Hunnicut said.
"Fortunately, we are beginning to see the housing go vertical. We are beginning to see people move in and it is very exciting."
One of the first residents to move into a new townhouse in the San Francisco Shipyard is Mike Nguyen.
He secured a two-story, two-bedroom property for just over $700,000 after being trumped elsewhere on several occasions.
"This is like the next frontier in the city," Nguyen said. "Look at all the open land ... it has a lot of room to grow over here."
Importantly for Nguyen, he can still ride his bike to work in the city.
With downtown San Francisco about six kilometers away, this is certainly a proximity play by the developer. But it is also out to offer value.
In today's overheated market the price per square meter is about half the rate one would find in the city center.
Overseas Asian investors have been part of the initial wave of investors who helped buy out the first phase as part of a visa for investment program.
The next goal is to entice Silicon Valley companies to set up in the Shipyard and create an innovation alley.
"We are already in conversation with pretty significant Silicon Valley companies," McKibben said. "They have embraced it. Once people saw this is happening, people said it took so long, once it began the calls came."
If McKibbon is right, the sounds of commerce so common here for a century will return and fill what has been an empty space in recent decades.