Archive for May, 2007

Hub is short for hubris

May 30, 2007

The Hub - Condo in Burnaby, BC | Developed by Liberty Homes

Think of it as condo marketing as inspired by laundry detergent marketing. Honestly, for a moment I thought this was an ad for Tide.

The Hub is one of the condos up on Burnaby Mountain that make up the “UniverCity” — the unfortunately named community emerging out of Simon Fraser University‘s sell-off of its valuable mountain-top land to developers.

I don’t know much about The Hub but the ad tells me it’s “a variety of studio, one and two bedroom flats with striking modern architecture and sleek interiors.” There’s also some stuff about leading environmental standards and responsible housing backed without example or evidence.

Too bad developer Liberty Homes didn’t play up the higher education angle by choosing a more academic campaign. There’s something to be said for the ivory tower’s commitment to argument supported by reason.  It could very well be that this development is genuinely green in design.   But until I see the facts, I can only assume it’s fiction.

I don’t aim to be cynical but we are dealing with an industry that considers laminate to be a form of wood.

No word on pricing, but something tells me there’s no discount for students.

Discerning living at 5955 Balsam

May 28, 2007

5955 Balsam - Kerrisdale Living | Condo in Vancouver

I’ve long been troubled by the duplicitousness of the Vancouver identity. If you accept for a second that there is such a thing as the Vancouver identity, then you know it’s wrapped in enough paradoxes and ironies to make Baudrillard blush. Better than anyone else, Vancouverites can talk the talk about the environment, eco-density, and all the things needed to make the world a better place. Just make sure someone else does the work to make the change.

Welcome to Kerrisdale, Vancouver’s home to the rich and nimby, where populist politics are all the rage up until the point of taking action. In this low-density mecca of mansion homes, residents are likely to be found voicing support for green living and better transit all the while idling in their SUVs looking for the perfect place to park and grab a coffee in a take-out cup.

But as the Kerrisdale cult grows older, the kids leave the home and the neighbourhood’s population drops to even greater lows, what is there to do? The solution from George Wong at Platinum Project Marketing is to go out and buy another house.

And that brings us to 5955 Balsam, a Kerrisdale condo designed for the upper-crust of Vancouver’s creme. With multi-level garden, tower and penthouse homes starting at more than 1,200 square feet, these are gargantuan residences by Vancouver standards. Is this necessary in the city that’s supposedly all about eco-density? Here’s how a Platinum sales manager makes it all make sense:

We think 5955 Balsam will appeal to the discerning elderly who want to maintain a west-side lifestyle, but do not want the stairs or the maintenance of the large family home.

Additionally, we expect strong interest from discerning empty nesters who are of the modern mindset that ‘there is life after kids and retirement,’ who want to get out of the large home with the maintenance and get into the lock-up-and-go apartment, travel, eat out and start adventuring.

The operative word here is ‘discerning.’ These people will come from large custom homes and will not compromise on the ‘sense’ of space or quality.

So, you’re telling me that only those who’ve lived in large, custom-built homes know what quality is? That would be funny if it wasn’t so oppressive. My apologies for being middle class.

Speaking of oppression, check out this description of 5955 Balsam’s amenities as detailed by the Vancouver Sun:

The grounds will have a ‘Great Lawn,’ for pet runs; a lawn bowling and croquet green; a fireside terrace for resident gatherings; and a ‘poet’s corner’ . . . a secluded area in the extensive landscaped garden where one can contemplate, meditate and ruminate.

Call me anti-social but I don’t think a fireside gathering of Kerrisdale old timers is my idea of a good time. And what’s with the poet’s corner? Would you pay $800,000 to listen to Jennifer Clarke-types wax nostalgic about the 2002 election in iambic pentameter?

According to Wong, 5955 Balsam is a project unlike any other that will come again in a lifetime. By this he means the package of concrete construction, views, and the developer’s name. The Vancouver Sun backs him on the once-in-a-lifetime stuff, saying Wong “does not issue superlatives easily or readily.”

If this isn’t condo hype at its finest, I don’t know what is.

When the shovel hits the fan

May 24, 2007

Advertisement for Axis Condo in Burnaby - Click to enlarge

He may be the condo king but Bob Rennie is playing joker with this stupefyingly funny campaign for a new Burnaby condo. Honestly, I can’t believe King Bob vetted this. Really, a condo named Axis? That’s enticing in all ways but none. I guess with all the success he had with the Tripartite Townhomes he couldn’t help himself.

“Buy now before the shovel hits,” demands the tagline. What happens when the shovel hits, Bob? That’s right, you’re digging a hole.

As for boasting about pre-construction pricing, that’s quite a pitch to put up in the era of the CB Developments scandal. Nothing says value like handing over your money before the job’s begun, let alone done. I guess with a name like Axis, Rennie’s betting buyers will see it as a name they can trust. Just don’t ask the Russians.

My apologies for the history references. Let’s regroup and march on over to the developer’s website:

Axis is everything you’re looking for…. Love coming home to the gracious open living space, a welcome embrace of calm, clean lines and contemporary elegance. Delight in the beautifully-appointed kitchens and baths, where attention to craftsmanship elevates good taste. Everything about Axis is designed to enhance your satisfaction — not to mention, your investment.

Hurray for Axis. Sounds like the perfect concrete cave for all those Prussian Blue fans looking for a place to rock out and bask in their own magnificence.

Here’s hoping the strata council doesn’t invade Poland.

Check your pulse

May 22, 2007

Advertisement for Pulse

Today’s entry takes inspiration from great Canadian screenwriter Graham Yost whose script for Speed is forever etched in my memory:

Pop quiz, hot shot. There’s a new condo in Kitsilano. You’re a marketing firm tasked to make an ad that will hold thousands of potential buyers hostage. Your pre-sale launch date is 100 days away. What do you do? What do you do?

Shoot the hostage.

OK, this doesn’t make any sense. But it got the blood pumping. It’s a fitting start for a look at a condo named Pulse. That’s right, Pulse. It’s the latest sensation in Kitsilano condo living since FIRST got there first.

So as for the challenge of creating an ad that will hold potential buyers hostage? Behold a seemingly nude woman with sunglasses as she towers over an urban environment.

Why? Who knows. One guess is that someone at the marketing firm believes this has something to do with Kits, life, culture, and style. I’m thinking it might just be an accident coming out of the company office party. A few drinks among designers, all of a sudden clothes start coming off and a new ad is born. Call it condos gone wild.

My pulse is up all right. I’m running away from this as fast as I possibly can.

Go root yourself

May 18, 2007

Advertisement for Origin - a condo development in Pitt Meadows, BC

Origin is a new condo development in Pitt Meadows. The marketing blitz for these “stylish, luxury condos” began about a month ago with a full-page back-cover ad in the Georgia Straight. With its minimalist orange colour scheme, Origin’s palette looks like it was stolen fresh from ING Direct. This is but one problem in this “marketing solution” engineered by the folks at MAC Marketing Solutions.

Another problem is the tagline. “Get rooted?” Yuck. Sounds like something you’d say in disrespect of someone’s mother. In fact, it’s the kind of thing you might hear replacing a swear word in an edited-for-television version of an R-rated movie. You know, like when Kevin Bacon in the TV edit of Oliver Stone’s JFK contributes “mother fletcher” to the film’s verbal potpourri.

If first impressions count, then Origin starts off on the wrong foot. Funny enough, the copy on the Origin’s website offers an opinion on this very subject:

First impressions are important and Origin’s is one of timeless elegance, thanks to West Coast-inspired architecture and enduring, natural-looking materials like timber, brick and Hardie plank siding.

“Natural-looking materials?” Oh no they didn’t. Oh no they did! You heard it here first, friends. Fibre board is now the new oak. Quick, let’s read some more copy to see if they can salvage themselves:

Origin’s ideal Pitt Meadows location offers countless urban amenities and incredible natural beauty right at your doorstep. Living at Origin will put you within a few blocks of every urban essential: Starbucks, IGA, Shoppers Drug Mart and the local Farmers Market. Start here, and go anywhere.

Go anywhere is one way of putting it. Only when I’m gone, I’ll stay gone. But I’ll be nice and give them one last chance:

The intimate community includes intuitively designed junior one-bedroom, one-bedroom, one-bedroom plus-den and two-bedroom suites – all of which deliver refrishingly versatile floor plans with anywhere from 529 to 922 square feet and spacious areas for entertaining.

“Refrishingly?” Now that’s a first impression. I wonder if the construction will match the attention to the detail demonstrated in the copy?

Am I too mean-spirited with that last remark? Not a chance. Because with a project named Origin, one thing is for sure: it’s survival of the fittest.

Compass pressure

May 16, 2007

Advertisement for Compass - Cloverdale, BC

This ad for the Cloverdale-based Compass apartments showed up recently and it may be the most explicitly high-pressure condo ad since Mosaic brought us Coho II.

Taking a page out of the Robert Cialdini playbook and pushing the scarcity principle to the max, Compass is all about making you feel like you’re on the verge of an opportunity lost. The ad shows a random assortment of “buyers” who offer quotes so contrived they belong in a screenwriting master class on how not to write dialogue. Just listen to these beauties:

Hiking trails, wineries, roadside produce stands… all within minutes of my new Compass Apartment!”

Phase 1 sold out so fast! No way I’m missing out on Phase 2!”

I’ll be mere steps from Starbucks, Extra Foods and Shoppers. What a location!”

Spacious, open layouts; fabulous finishings; minutes to my route to work. We’re definitely buying a Compass Apartment.

As if this isn’t enough, the copy ratchets up the steam to make sure the message isn’t lost along the way:

We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling of missing out on something we really wanted because we didn’t act fast enough. Rarely do you get a second chance to get that ‘something.’ Opening today, this is your last chance to buy Compass Apartment! Avoid that sinking feeling again. Register Now!

Well, I’ve got a sinking feeling but it’s not because I missed the chance to shower the developer with my borrowed money. It’s the fact that this ad never reveals what I’m actually missing. The special ‘something’ that is for sale is never really made clear. OK it’s an apartment. But what?

But nothing. Hype is beyond reality and there is no reality to this ad. What’s the square footage? No mention. How many bedrooms? No suggestion. What’s the warranty? No idea.

So what does this all add up to?

Compass is now sold out.

Luxuriate yourself at Levo

May 14, 2007

Advertisement for Levo - Coquitlam, B.C.

If you think of a list of all the world’s cities ranked by their greatness, I can think of no greater gulf along the continuum than that separating Coquitlam, B.C. and New York City. But for the makers of Levo — a boutique-style “sky residence” located in Coquitlam, the duodenum of the Lower Mainland — the limits of hyperbole go as high as the imagination soars.

Mahattan [sic] vibe? Parisian flair? Sky residence? Landmark address in Coquitlam? What the hell is this?

Well, the copy doesn’t help much. Apparently a $250,000 one-bedroom comes with a “designer-inspired interior” and “innovative features far above the ordinary.” Wow, that’s a description. So aside from not actually naming one single innovative feature, all we’ve got to go on is that the drywall guy browsed an Ikea catalogue before putting up the walls. (Well, you tell me what “designer-inspired” is supposed to mean?)

Then there’s the howler of a closing line saying Levo is “created for those ready to touch the sky.” Uh, yeah. That’s a way of putting it. Are these folks selling us a condo or a bong?

Now it’s not all bad for Levo, though living behind Coquitlam Centre is pretty rough. I will give points to the marketing team for their hugely entertaining spin on a commonly used condo buzzword. I’ve typed out the copy in case you didn’t catch it in the ad. Can you find what I’m referring to? Look again:

Levo. Let your imagination soar and see yourself luxuriating in your own boutique-style home with your choice of designer-inspired interior, spectacular views, and innovative features far above the ordinary. Levo. Created for those ready to touch the sky.

The word is luxuriating. It’s a real verb and to date, I haven’t seen it used in local condo marketing. I love how dirty it sounds and I don’t think it’s just me. What pops into your head when you think of someone “luxuriating” in a boutique-style home? Yeah, told you so.

Incident at Patina

May 10, 2007

Advertisement for Patina - Vancouver, BC, Canada

Currently going up at the site of the old Downtown YMCA on Burrard Street in Vancouver, Concert’s Patina is hedging its bets that what the market really needs is another condo sold as a lifestyle commodity. Good work, guys. Yawn.

Substitute the Patina and home references and this could be any ad you want it to be. Consider:

“It is savouring, with uncommon ease, the city’s most sublime flavours and textures.” -Revlon

“It is savouring, with uncommon ease, the city’s most sublime flavours and textures.” -Juicy Fruit

“It is savouring, with uncommon ease, the city’s most sublime flavours and textures.” -Durex

OK. My apologies for any disgusting imagery that might have come with the last one. But you see where I’m going. This is template marketing. It offers no insight into what actually makes the place a “home of rare luxury and subtle sophistication, at the centre of it all.” Though the line about the “cosmopolitan sparkle” of downtown certainly takes on new meaning in the wake of an incident that occurred just down the street at Burrard Station.

Graceful tranquility? Refinement? Whatever you say, Patina.

P.S. You don’t need to drop a half million on Patina to know that the best street vendor in the neighbourhood is Japa Dog. Even Ice Cube knows the truth.

Ice Cube, left, and Japa Dog Man

d’Corize this

May 5, 2007

Advertisement for d’Corize condo tower in Surrey, BC

Some weeks ago, condohype reader Asun asked if I would offer up some thoughts on d’Corize, the 21-storey condo tower in Surrey marketed as the city’s “next majestic landmark.” I’ve been wanting to the lay the boots to this one for a while now, but it’s been a matter of finding the right time. With a special “VIP Preview” happening in Surrey this afternoon — backed by a “special advertising feature” in today’s Vancouver Sun — the time has come.

Asking buyers to “rize” above the Centre (and check their dictionary at the door), developer Newgen Whalley Properties passionately describes d’Corize as a project of “quality view homes” located in Central Surrey’s “most desirable neighbourhood.”

In the interest of accuracy, I will tell you that the neighbourhood in question is Whalley but I understand why the mavens at Platinum Project Marketing Group wouldn’t want to mention that. (Yeah, Platinum’s got the contract on this one.)

Now, notwithstanding the questionable “desirability” of the back-pack man at the bottom of the ad — is he using his pack to carry textbooks or his B&E equipment for a home invasion? — there’s nothing too obviously unattractive about what we can see. Of course, the marketers of d’Corize didn’t show what’s across the street:

Image of an abandoned duplex in a lot adjacent to the d’Corize condo site in Surrey, BC.

This photo, published in the April 25, 2007 edition of Surrey’s Now Newspaper, speaks to the majesty of the d’Corize neighbourhood. It’s an abandoned, filth-infested duplex complete with derelict furniture in the yard and derogatory graffiti on the walls. Who’s owner of this paradise? Newgen Whalley Properties.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Now reporter Tom Zytaruk:

A vacant duplex at the northeast corner of 134th Street and 104th Avenue — owned by the developer of the d’Corize tower project [Surrey Mayor Dianne] Watts is due to launch today — has been driving local residents around the bend for many months now.

“It’s terrible,” said Vern, an elderly neighbour who asked that his last name not be published.

“You wouldn’t believe what we’ve went through with that over there.”

It gets better.

Despite a chain-link fence surrounding the place, the mess has crept into a city-owned wooded lot to the immediate north, where nests of grubby cushions and a board shelter look to be radiating disease.

Residents of the Mayflower Co-op tower next door look down from their windows and see couples having sex in a grassy area behind their building, Vern added. Out front, rats are digging holes in the flowerbeds.

Vern shakes with frustration as he tells the Now that Whalley is getting worse, despite the spin from developers and Surrey city hall.

And better.

On Monday, a company called Enviro-vac was busy removing asbestos from the duplex. One of the workers, Lewis Brunelle, stared at the house as though he were a soldier bracing for the signal to go over the top.

“I’m not looking forward to going in there,” he said.

There be needles.

And poo.

“They used it as a toilet, so you don’t want to got [sic] in there,” Brunelle warned.

Radiating disease. Rats. Sex in a grassy area. Asbestos. Poo. All characteristics of a desirable neighbourhood, yes?

According to a Platinum spokesperson, the hope for d’Corize is “to attract sophisticated buyers who are seeking the long term durability that is associated with concrete construction as well as investors who see the value of quality and a great location.”

I should end this before I laugh myself silly.

To pre-register for the homes in d’Corize, visit or call 604-580-3267.

Above all

May 2, 2007

Paramount Properties - Chilliwack, BC

I don’t even know if this is a condo ad. In fact, I’m not sure if anything is for sale. What is for sure is this may be the worst designed real estate advertisement the Lower Mainland has ever seen. Like, above all, the worst.

The offering is Chilliwack’s Paramount Properties where the only thing more “distinguishing” than the address is the designer’s use of the gradient tool. Of course, that’s assuming this was done in Photoshop or Illustrator. Who’s taking bets this ad is “designed” out of Microsoft Word?

If you think it can’t get any worse, think again. A quick click to the Paramount Properties website treats visitors to a shot of a deer’s ass.

No, I’m not making this up. If I could be so creative, I’d have a job in condo marketing.