The sleek new highrise called Fifteen Fifty, now visible from many angles in SoMa, the Lower Haight, and the edges of the Mission District, needed a neighborhood name for its marketing materials. And so this no-man's land between SoMa and the Mission, where Van Ness becomes South Van Ness, has been dubbed Van Mission. But will anyone ever really call it that?
The address of the building is technically 1550 Mission Street. The forty-story luxury apartment tower was designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, and it now has units being marketed for May 1 move-ins — low-floor studios are starting at $3,500, there's a "2.5 bedroom" with a doorless den for $8,800, and a couple of three-bedroom units currently on offer for $9,000 and $15,000 respectively.
The project manager for the property, Joe Walsh, explains to the Chronicle this week that he and his first two retail tenants, Bar Agricole's Thad Vogler and Jeff Weinhaus of Equinox Fitness, were standing on the corner of South Van Ness and Mission a year ago trying to figure out what neighborhood they were in. Clearly they would have loved to call it Hayes Valley — the marketing website focuses heavily on the Hayes Valley shops and restaurants nearby. And they probably could have gotten away with calling it SoMa.
But this high-traffic area with a street that leads to a freeway onramp has always been more of a gateway between neighborhoods, in part because no one lived there. So now that there's an apartment building to market, it's gotta have a name, and Van Mission so it will be.
The reactions have naturally been skeptical, as Curbed notes. And SFist is no stranger to the absurdities of new neighborhood monikers that have little chance of sticking — Curbed argues that The East Cut has a chance of surviving in part because it has a Community Benefit District named for it, but I'm still not buying it and it's still Rincon Hill. Remember when The Bold Italic tried to coin "Valencia Bottoms"? Or when Yelp tried to make "DivCo" happen?
The Chronicle proudly recalls that it was the first print "TenderNob" back in the 90s, but there you had a genuine need to define a very gray area between a circus of a low-income neighborhood and one of San Francisco's wealthiest hilltop enclaves. Also, it should be noted that some 25 years later, people still look askance when anyone says they live in the "TenderNob," and they tend to get questions like "what are your cross streets?", the answer to which is sometimes followed with, "That's the Tenderloin, my friend."
The Equinox branch opening at Fifteen Fifty will officially be the Equinox Van Mission. Van Mission is all over the apartment listings website for the building. But will it stick? One building does not a neighborhood make. And newcomers to town who may land at this address may get tired of the laughter and uncomfortable questioning that happens when they say they "live in Van Mission." So instead of having another person ask "Do you pay $4,000 for a studio?" they may just start saying "SoMa" and move on to another topic.