A few years ago, we walked around the area between 5th, Mission, and Howard streets and the surrounding neighborhoods and quickly recognized the immense potential of such a large, urban, diverse context for a new type of mixed-use development:

The four-acre site sits at a hinge point between several local neighborhoods and cultures: SoMa, Yerba Buena, the Tenderloin, 6th Street, Mid-Market, Union Square, Civic Center and the Financial District. Numerous transit lines, BART, Caltrain, MUNI, and trolleys are all within walking distance, offering easy access to the entire city and the Bay Area. The city’s densest collection of affordable housing and community/youth services are directly down the street. Several cultural venues, civic spaces, and schools are also within blocks of 5M. Intricate alleys and pathways connect the site to the surroundings, making it an ideal location for pedestrian activity.

We knew it would be a complex process to harness the site’s potential. We began by researching how people work, how they interact with the city, how they build community, and how the emerging economy in San Francisco is transforming their lives. We talked with and observed the daily experiences of more than 300 local residents, community groups, artists, makers, entrepreneurs, city officials and university leaders. Again and again, a variety of themes rose to the surface, helping establish our mission for 5M.