The Real Deal New York

In unusual move, Magnum renames the Luminaire nearly one year into sales

Gramercy condo project re-christened Coda

Ben Shaoul and CODA at 385 First Avenue

What’s in a name? When it comes to hawking condominiums, the right moniker can be a powerful selling tool. But the wrong one can also be a deadweight.

In a rare move in new development marketing, Magnum Real Estate Group changed the name of its 385 First Avenue condo conversion project from the Luminaire to Coda in a bid to liven up the property’s brand, developer Ben Shaoul told The Real Deal.

The move is the latest in Magnum’s TRData LogoTINY bid to spur sales at the 138-unit property. It recently switched development marketing from Compass to Corcoran Sunshine and is also redoing the lobby design to promote interest.

Earlier this month, Chinese development firm CL Investment Group sold its 32.9 percent stake in the building to another Chinese investor for nearly $33 million, in a move that may have signaled a loss in confidence in the New York condo market. Shaoul declined to comment on how many units he’s sold at the building, but StreetEasy.com shows 34 apartments as being in contract.

New development experts said it was very uncommon for a developer to so drastically rebrand a property, nearly a year after the launch of sales. There are extreme examples. The ISIS condo in West Palm Beach, for instance, received a new moniker in 2014 after the Islamic militant group came to power in Syria and Iraq. But in most cases, developers only tweak the name of the building — changing it from the Sheffield to Sheffield 57, for instance. Ian Bruce Eichner recently switched up the branding at 45 East 22nd Street, dubbing the building Madison Square Park Tower at 45 East 22nd Street. Based on StreetEasy data, it doesn’t appear that the name change at Eichner’s project has resulted in a big spike in sales.

“I’m not so sure than a name change, especially today with all the transparency, that it really makes a difference,” said Andy Gerringer of the Marketing Directors, who worked on the Sheffield project years ago. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Another new development agent said going from one name to another “can be confusing” for consumers.

“If you were going to consider a change in marketing and branding, I would first recommend changing to the address versus a new name,” said the agent, requesting anonymity.

New development marketing firm Corcoran Sunshine made the change at the Luminaire shortly after taking over the project. Luminaire had been derived from the property’s original moniker: It was known as the Post Luminaria when Magnum acquired it from real estate investment trust Post Properties in 2014. Corcoran Sunshine has also produced a series of new marketing videos, pushing the new name and brand of the building.

Shaoul said he now saw the name Luminaire as “stodgy.” He said the name Coda had no particular origin.

The conversion of the building took longer than expected since Magnum had to work around existing rent-stabilized tenants, and the old branding had become stale, he said. Sales launched last April.

“The positioning of a building is the foundation of its success,” Shaoul said. “When we thought out the previous marketing campaign three years ago, it was really a pre-marketing campaign — a good starting point. But, in this market, you’ve got to bring life to the building.”