How a Condo Building Gets Its Name

The name of a condominium development plays a major role in its marketing. Some names given to developments burnish the brand. Others miss the mark completely, sounding absolutely pretentious and ridiculous.

The New York Times
recently ran an article about how challenging it was for an Upper East Side Manhattan property to name their building once they gave creative license to the condo board members. Big mistake: The building's residents considered The Prestige and The Ashton, but ultimately, after 18 months, they agreed on (yawn) The Sterling.

"The process of naming a condo project typically involves the sales and marketing team, [and] the developer or sponsor," says Lisa Maysonet, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman. "The location, the theme, the characteristics, [all] create a lifestyle. The most ridiculous names are the ones that are hard to remember, and have nothing to do with the character of the project."

While not exactly ridiculous-sounding as much as oddly named, a building like Bland Houses in Flushing, N.Y., sounds like the developer gave up before even trying. (Actually, it's named after singer/songwriter Jimmy Bland.) There's also the hyper-literal Das Haus in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Das Haus translates as "the house" in German. Add to the mix, the Butterknife in Sanibel Island, Fla. Apparently the name derives from the unique shape of the community and its main thoroughfare--along with its previous use during World War II, when it served as a landing strip.

The literal approach is popular one. Developers often choose names derived from the building's location, proximity to water, mountains, and "the developers themselves, with a preference for family names," says Mark Bender, a vice president at T&H Brokers. Another good example is Rancho Sin Vacas in Tucson. In Spanish, it means "Ranch Without Cows." (Ideal for vegetarians?)

Then there's the super-simple El Condo in the Kirkland neighborhood of Seattle. Mud Spring Estates in Helena, Mont. could have opted for something more pleasant like "Mountain View Estates." But hey, what's a little dirt?

The Green Ember in Washington, D.C., was short-lived. Sounding like a fire hazard, it became the The Providence after new management came in. Also in D.C. is The Celsius. The property's tagline? "Turning up the heat in Colombia Heights."

Foreign words are another common inspiration. The high-end Edgewater, N.J., property, Vela, means "sail" in Italian. "It was a more complex process than our projects that are all about location, [like] 254 Park Avenue South," says Daniel Rosen, Managing Partner of the developer group Rosen Partners. "We wanted to combine the direct waterfront location with an emphasis on its high-end, timeless design. We thought [Vela] best represented those two aspects."

The developer of Manhattan's Alma which is "soul" en espanol, apparently chose the name because the empty building was lacking that inner fire. The Setai, located in both New York and Miami, isn't an English word. It's a totally made-up word that mashes two Indonesian words (seltan and pantai) to create "South Beach."

Too much thought went into naming Vdara in Las Vegas' City Center. The property's designers have two stories circulating about what went into the naming of the high-rise. The "V" means "Vegas" and "ara" is an attempt at evoking that high-end boutique hotel appeal. Another explanation is that the "D" stands for "Deluxe" and "ara" means "air" in Portuguese.

Regarding the more pretentious buildings, "French names imply elegance, like the Parc Vendome and The Pierre," says Bender. The Solaire, The Verdesian and The Visionaire, three green buildings in New York, sound like a chain of tanning salons and a software or cinema complex. The Yves in Manhattan strives for an air of sophistication. Unfortunately, some of that "sophistication" went over buyers' heads thanks to mispronunciations of Yves. Hoping to appeal to the Zen set (or perhaps electricians?) is Ohm New York.

But the most bizarrely named property we tracked down was Prison View Estate in Lorton, Va. (No need to send out those lists of criminals who've moved into the neighborhood.)

Think of any hilarious or hideous named building in your 'hood or along your commute? Feel free to add the ones in your community in the comments box.

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