By Dani DodgeUNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
December 31, 2006
Doma, Metrome, M2i â€“ what the heck?
No dictionary defines these fabricated words, but developers are plastering them on downtown San Diego condominiums hoping they will speak sonnets.
â€œWhen we name projects, we are trying to show what makes it unique and what makes it memorable,â€ said Rich Gustafson, a partner at CityMark. â€œIt can be as literal as the Egyptian (named after the theater it replaced in Hillcrest) or something like Doma, a word we made up.â€
In San Diego’s downtown, names are getting more and more creative as developers strive for a sense of identity in the condo jungle: Alicante, Atria, Aperture. There are about 79 condominium complexes downtown, 30 more under construction and 56 in planning stages.
They all need handles.
Although it seems as though developers are just grabbing letters from a Scrabble bag, they actually spend months kicking around contenders. The process often starts with a page of suggestions from a marketing professional. They do a Google search of selections for unintended meanings. They whisper their favorites to spouses and watch for the derisive snicker. They keep thinking, can it be better? What letters could say more but still slide like silk from the lips of sales agents?
The list gets narrowed. Tossed out. Rebuilt.
Before Metrome, a 184-unit condominium in East Village, got its moniker, the developer batted around names related to the main library slated to be built across the street. Famous authors were considered.
But fundraising for the library has been slow. Developers dreaded potential home buyers questioning whether the library would be built. They wanted them to be jazzed about living there, library or no library.
â€œWe didn’t want to be be too conservative. We wanted the vibe of playful and energetic,â€ said Kimberly Stouffer, marketing director for Urban Housing Partners. â€œWe decided we wanted to be much more edgy.â€
Metrome was a play on metropolitan home, Stouffer said.
Sometimes developers chuck the intended name, not because it’s bad, but because the timing is off.
For instance, before Gustafson was with CityMark, he did an about-face on a name for a housing subdivision in North County in the early 1990s. At the time, Escondido was in the news for methamphetamine lab busts, he said. Escondido Highlands just seemed wrong.
â€œBack then, the city was getting an unfair bad rap . . . and our name tied into that unintentionally,â€ Gustafson said. â€œWe said, ‘We are trying to sell real estate here and we need a different orientation.’ â€
The name was changed. Emerald Heights was a success.
Sometimes, the names that cause people to scratch their heads have simple explanations. Buyers who show up in the sales office of Vantage Pointe often question the final â€œeâ€ on Pointe, said Donna Lutz, the sales manager for 679-unit East Village project currently under construction.
The builder is the Canadian company Pointe of View, and most of their projects bear the name Pointe, Lutz said. Its next downtown project is Pacific Pointe.
Douglas Wilson wanted something â€œa little tonyâ€ for his upscale condominium project in East Village.
â€œWe wanted a strong, simple name and to convey the image we want for the building, which is pretty special,â€ Wilson said.
He looked for inspiration in major cities around the world and decided on one name often used on the most impressive downtown dwellings: The Mark.
Developers don’t delude themselves into thinking all their hip creativity will sell their project.
â€œNo one buys the most expensive thing in their life because of the name,â€ Gustafson said.
But developers do struggle to create a tag with cachet or verve.
Urban Housing Partners began considering names for its upcoming project at 15th and Market streets six months ago, Stouffer said.
Among the 13 possibilities: Ultimate, Marquette, The Marquis on Market, Matrix, M5, The Club on Market and Marker 15. At the top are Evolution on Market and Park 15. Evolution emphasises the high-tech kitchens and innovative design. Park 15 refers to a planned green space nearby.
Stouffer said the developer is giving a marketing professional a final crack at â€œknocking our socks offâ€ before making the final cut.
A name is everything: It is the marketing plan, it is the people who will buy, it is the identity. For Gustafson, the creative process goes on and on until he can say, â€œYeah, I feel that.â€
Among the proposed downtown condos: Breeza, Strata, Electra. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, M2i stands for Market to Island, the building’s location.
As Shakespeare said: â€œThough this be madness, yet there is method in’t.â€