Strange Name game is no joke for marketing of new condos

By Dani DodgeUNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
December 31, 2006
Doma, Metrome, M2i – what the heck?
No dictionary defines these fabricated words, but developers are plastering them on downtown San Diego condominiums hoping they will speak sonnets.
“When we name projects, we are trying to show what makes it unique and what makes it memorable,” said Rich Gustafson, a partner at CityMark. “It can be as literal as the Egyptian (named after the theater it replaced in Hillcrest) or something like Doma, a word we made up.”

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.
“We didn’t want to be be too conservative. We wanted the vibe of playful and energetic,” said Kimberly Stouffer, marketing director for Urban Housing Partners. “We decided we wanted to be much more edgy.”
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.
“Back then, the city was getting an unfair bad rap . . . and our name tied into that unintentionally,” Gustafson said. “We said, ‘We are trying to sell real estate here and we need a different orientation.’ ”
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 “e” 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 “a little tony” for his upscale condominium project in East Village.
“We wanted a strong, simple name and to convey the image we want for the building, which is pretty special,” 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.
“No one buys the most expensive thing in their life because of the name,” 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 “knocking our socks off” 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, “Yeah, I feel that.”
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: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

Last week in the News – Economic Update!

The Producer Price Index — which measures inflation pressures at the wholesale level — surged 2% in November, the largest advance in more than three decades, the Labor Department said December 19. The 2% jump was four times bigger than the 0.5% increase economists had forecast. Core wholesale inflation, which excludes energy and food, rose 1.3%, the biggest gain since July 1980.
Undaunted by the humbug of higher wholesale prices, consumers increased their spending by 0.5% in November, just missing the 0.6% gain economists had forecast, the Commerce Department reported December 22. November’s increase in consumer spending was the best since July and suggests the nation’s economic expansion is not in danger of fizzling out.
Although Americans were spending, they weren’t saving. Americans’ personal savings rate — savings as a percentage of after-tax income — dipped to a negative 1% in November, the worst showing since August.
The pace of U.S. home building rose 6.7% in November, beating economists’ expectations and reversing a sharp decline in October. However, permits for future groundbreaking fell 3%, a level not seen since December 1997.
U.S. mortgage applications decreased 10.2% for the week ending December 15, the Mortgage Bankers Association said December 20. Purchase applications fell 5.9%, while refinancing applications were off 14.6%.
Interest rates on 30-year mortgages inched up for the second week in a row, Freddie Mac reported December 21. Nevertheless, 30-year mortgage rates are still lower than they were for the corresponding week a year ago.
This week look for updates on new home sales on December 27 and existing home sales on December 28.

Compliments of American Home Mortgage Investment Corp.