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Naming Rites

That punchy name on your new building may sound like a trifle—but it probably cost a bundle.

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Rendering courtesy of Sherwood Equities.  

The residential project at Tenth Avenue from 51st to 54th Streets won’t open until 2007, and already it’s had more name changes than Diddy. When the plans were unveiled in 2003, the building was known as Clinton Green—perfectly okay, if banal. (It’s in Clinton, a.k.a. Hell’s Kitchen, and will use eco-friendly materials.) Later, after brand strategists said the building would appeal to work-hard-play-hard “social butterflies,” the developer flirted with calling it the Butterfly; that was rejected for being “too much,” says the Dermot Company’s Stephen Benjamin. Now it’s the Mosaic, another name cooked up by a branding group. Benjamin says it encapsulates the project’s mix of luxury rentals, affordable housing, and theaters.

What’s in a name? In a crowded market, builders and their marketing teams think it genuinely matters. “It’s the most immediate first impression,” explains Jeffrey Katz of Sherwood Equities. For inspiration, says broker Shaun Osher, who’s in the process of naming a Chelsea condo, they look to the building’s location (hence Bryant Park Tower) or its look (the Bernard Tschumi–designed Blue and the Blanca on East 73rd Street, are, respectively, blue and white). Sometimes they draw on the site’s past—as at Tribeca’s Ice House—but not always. Katz’s new development (pictured), which replaces the old Studebaker Building at the top end of Times Square, was likely to keep that name until a young colleague asked him what a Studebaker was. It’s now 1600 Broadway on the Square.

Hiring pros to come up with buyer-friendly names costs anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000, says Christopher Demakis of the Boston branding agency Partners + Simons. (Though there’s no way to put a dollar value on what a good name provides, says Katz, but “a bad name can hurt you.”) The process includes strategy meetings, focus-group sessions, and spirited debate, and is fraught with expectation. “It’s like naming a child,” says the Corcoran Group Marketing’s Tricia Hayes Cole, who happens to be four months pregnant. Pick a goofy moniker and buyers may roll their eyes right out the sales-office door. A good name resonates with its audience—cool for hipsters, chic for fashionistas—and is geographically distinctive. “It shouldn’t be appropriate to the Lower East Side, Scarsdale, and Miami,” adds Corcoran’s Barrie Mandel. That’s why often the address—especially if it carries cachet, as on Fifth Avenue—more than suffices. Even then, it can pay to take extra insurance. Michael Shvo, the luxury-condo marketer who’s handling 111 Fulton and 8 Union Square South, consults a numerologist. “It can’t hurt,” he says.


Movers
Upstairs, Downstairs
It didn’t take long for former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Carl Spielvogel and his wife, the author and former Landmarks Preservation Commission chief Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, to find a buyer for their Park Avenue apartment. The couple, known for their heavy-hitter Democratic Party fund-raising, just went into contract with an unnamed buyer for their high-floor co-op with three exposures and a terrace, at slightly over $20 million; they’re moving to a bigger apartment ten floors below. Meanwhile, the guessing game continues over where new Yankee (and, more significant, former Red Soxer) Johnny Damon will settle down, but he’s left a few clues around town. Sources say the centerfielder was recently mobbed by overjoyed young fans at the Empire on East 78th Street—where, press reports have said, Jason Giambi already lives, and where a few apartments are available in the $6 million–to–$8 million range.


Same Space, Different Place
Precious Key Carries Precious Price
How much does access to the city’s only private park cost? Though one imagines it to be a monumental sum, these two postwar co-ops in Gramercy Park, separated by just $24,000, seem to indicate that it’s relatively modest. Both apartments have nearly identical layouts, finishes, and square footage, and the slightly pricier apartment (which is the one with the key) is on a higher floor. All the same, access to the fabled park—provided at an annual fee of $350 per apartment to the select few buildings fronting the square—does make the difference to a certain kind of buyer, says Corcoran’s Georgia Pellegrini. “It’s like getting a beautifully maintained backyard.”

39 Gramercy Park North, Apartment 8B
The Facts:
One-bedroom, one-bath, 750-square-foot co-op.
Asking Price: $649,000.
Maintenance: $798 per month.
Agent: Georgia Pellegrini, the Corcoran Group.

211 East 18th Street, Apartment LA
The Facts:
One-bedroom, one-bath, 770-square-foot co-op.
Asking Price: $625,000.
Maintenance: $802 per month.
Agent: Serena Brownell, the Corcoran Group.


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