Bill Morris in Co-op/Condo Buyers on April 8, 2021
Marilyn Sygrove has been redesigning common areas in co-ops and condos for nearly four decades. But when the board at the 80-unit Art Deco co-op at 350 E. 77th St. called on her for a makeover of the building’s hallways, lobby, vestibule, entryway and awning, Sygrove was in for an epiphany.
“It was the awning that led to a larger discussion with the board,” she says. “They said they wanted to identify themselves, give the building a name. They went to the shareholders and came up with ‘The 350.’ They took their address number and made it special. It dawned on me that when we do redesign work for co-ops and condos, we’re actually branding them.”
As a result of that epiphany, Sygrove, who started Sygrove Associates Design Group in 1982, is expanding into the largely untapped world of branding older co-ops and condos – helping them come up with a name, then designing a website that appeals to the “ideal buyer” by touting the building’s neighborhood, architectural details, common areas, history and such amenities as gyms and rooftop gardens.
“New-construction condominiums come up with these sexy, elaborate websites,” Sygrove says. “Meanwhile, the co-op next door may have just done an amazing makeover of its common areas, but they don’t take it to the next step – having a website that explains to a potential buyer what it’s like to live in this building. The boards in older buildings are realizing they need to be competitive with new construction. They need to ask the question: Who are we?”
In this new venture, Sygrove will work in conjunction with the website copywriter Betsy Kent of Be Visible and Sunny Ryoo, creative director at Pixelove Design, which has fashioned brands for architects, interior designers and beauty and lifestyle products. “We’re trying to convince these older residential buildings to get with the program,” says Ryoo, whose services include designing and building websites. “When there’s no website, you don’t understand the history of the building, the architecture, the neighborhood. Through a brand identity and website, we try to communicate what makes these buildings unique and special. And we believe this will be beneficial not just for apartment owners but also for real estate brokers.”
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Sygrove’s branding toolkit ranges from naming the building to designing a logo and color scheme, promotional materials, possibly an awning and, of course a website.
“The building’s website will have professional images,” Kent says. “It could include floor plans and images of apartments that are for sale. Buildings spend big time and money to improve their common areas, and yet nobody sees them unless they visit the building. By creating a brand, boards can create a window into their building that they control.”
Arguably the most potent facet of any brand is its name. It’s possible for consultants like Sygrove and Kent to come up with suggestions for building names, or for boards to solicit ideas from shareholders, as happened at 350 E. 77th St. It’s also possible to use a combination of both methods. For her part, Kent favors getting residents involved in choosing a name for their building. “That way,” she says, “the people who have a stake in the building feel they have a voice. My instinct is that each board has to decide which method works best for them.”
Eric Meer, a real estate lawyer who served on the building design committee at The 350, says the name came out of a questionnaire Sygrove sent to shareholders early in the project, seeking to divine their aesthetic preferences and asking for suggestions for a building name. About half of the shareholders offered suggestions. “The name we chose came up in a brainstorming session between the design committee and Marilyn’s team,” Meer says. “Someone just blurted it out: ‘The 350.’ We’d never heard it before. It rolled off the tongue well, and it catches attention.”
Now the board is mulling whether to take the next step in the branding process and develop a website. Meer is all for it. “I do like the idea of branding the building and using that name as the centerpiece of the brand,” he says. “It gives us a presence where before we didn’t have any.”
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