The Real Deal New York

On projects’ opening night, curtain goes up years before building opens

November 27, 2007
By C. Hobbs

Everyone loves a party. Savvy real estate companies are no exception, and are aware that project launch parties for new developments are the best way to create a buzz and generate interest.

Some of the top event planners in the city are helping give the real estate party circuit a little panache.

On a balmy night in mid-September, about 200 politicians, bankers, architects, and brokers packed the trendy Maritime Hotel for the opening party of the Mosaic, a 633-unit residential and mixed-use development it will feature space for two theater companies being developed by the Dermot Company.

The property, on 10th Avenue between 51st and 53rd streets, won’t be ready until fall 2007, but this was a mere detail for top event designer Bronson van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck, whose goal was to keep the nascent development fresh in the minds of the attendees.

In order to tie into the multicolored Mosaic theme, transparent acrylic tables and ottomans were filled with different colored flowers, illuminated by colored gels. Blue prints and renderings of what the building will look like were transferred onto acetate film, put in light boxes and hung like fine art. At the bar, guests sipped on signature cocktails like pink cosmopolitans as well as green apple and blue martinis.

“I think what we are seeing is more and more companies across the board hosting parties, and real estate companies are definitely on the forefront of the trend,” says van Wyck.

He believes events help generate press and create a brand image or lifestyle, especially in the real estate industry, his niche market.

“It is such a highly targeted communication,” van Wyck adds. “You are handpicking who you are going to target your message to. And you have them for a set period of time; you have a captive audience.”

Steve Benjamin, the vice president of the Dermot Company, viewed the party as a key part of the company’s marketing strategy.

“We wanted to have an event that helped us launch the positioning of the Mosaic and launch the corporate positioning of the Dermot Company,” he says. “We think the branding of real estate is becoming more and more important. We want to make sure our projects are well branded and stay on message.”

Dennis Brady of Jack Resnick & Sons, the longtime owner, builder, and manager of properties in Manhattan, believes parties are a useful tool in marketing properties to brokers.

“When we do a marketing budget for our buildings, there is always a line item for a brokers party or some sort of launch party including a give-away to help make the event memorable,” says Brady.

His company hosted a brokers party in late September to showcase one of its newest properties, a steel-and-glass architectural styled 258-unit luxury condominium building located at 200 Chambers Street in Tribeca.

When it comes to hosting the perfect event, top event planner Mark Veeder, co-founder of Event Quest, believes the key is to “think outside of the box.”

When meeting with new clients, Veeder asks specific questions: “We want to know what is the project, what is the personality of the proposed event, taking a look from a guest’s perspective.”

He also advises thinking differently when choosing a location.

“Try to choose an unusual location,” Veeder says. “Maybe you can set up in a raw space. Imagine all this construction and disaster around you and then you have this elegant lunch. People are looking for experiences, that’s what really creates a buzz. It’s about creating the unexpected that’s important. A great party gives you what a typical open house doesn’t, like opportunities for publicity and the social pages.”

Real estate companies are catching on to the idea that throwing a distinctive event means moving beyond the traditional broker party, event planners say.

Laurie Zucker, vice chairman of the Manhattan Skyline Management Corporation, threw a “Puppy Party” in September for brokers, targeting those with dogs, even sending doggie invitations to their pooches.

The event highlighted a new luxury 62-unit condominium building located at 205 East 59th Street, which includes a puppy park on its mezzanine level.

“A lot of people still don’t know about it, so we thought the party would be a good way to introduce people to the product,” Zucker says. “People can bring their dogs and see for themselves.”

Mark Musters of the Experiential Agency, rated one of the top 10 event designers in New York City by BizBash Media, which provides resources for event planners, believes holding an event inside the actual property you’re showcasing is a great way to get more bang for the buck.

“People are actually in a space for 45 minutes to an hour,” Musters says. “It gives much more of a lasting impression.”

Some of his tips to achieving a successful launch event include: having giveaways and goodie bags, greeting guests personally, creating a relaxed atmosphere, and investing in great food and the presentation. Musters adds, “We do a lot of lunches. We rent lamps, furniture, and create vignettes, showcasing what can be done with the space. What we do is create an experience.”

Celebrity event planner David Beahm of David Beahm Designs, whose creative ideas delivered one of the most stunning weddings of the decade, the marriage of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta- Jones at the Plaza Hotel, believes what’s critical to making a successful event is to always keep guests entertained and to try to never stop a party with long speeches or presentations.

“If someone has to give a speech, it should be limited to 30 seconds, a minute tops,” he says. “Speeches can suck the energy out of a party, literally toss it on the ground.”

Beahm suggests a more interactive approach, encouraging companies to have a select number of people “working the crowd” during the event, to help spread a product or company message.

“It’s someone who knows the product or company mingling, introducing themselves, saying things like ‘Have you seen our model?’… ‘Are you familiar with all of the amenities of the building?’… ‘Do you have any questions?’ … It’s subtle, effective and best of all,” Beahm says, “it doesn’t stop the party.”

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