Why Go to New York? We’ve Got the Lower East Side Right Here!

As an urbanite who understand the issues regarding urban sprawl, I realize that we’ve got no choice but to accept the presence and growth of condo developments in the downtown core. Better that we create density in an area where people don’t need cars than to continue to force people out to the burbs where their ugly houses destroy valuable farmland and their hour-long commutes create pollution.

That doesn’t mean I have to like the whole “lifestyle marketing” scheme that comes with so many condo projects.

Today in the mail, I received a postcard for something called Kormann House (note – bullshit Flash website – click at your own risk!). This is a historic 19th century building at Queen Street East and Sherbourne that is in the process of having an ugly glass tower perched atop it. These types of buildings are accepted and encouraged because the facade at street level remains virtually unchanged, but the overall structure often comes off looking like two very disaparate buildings mushed together.

My gripe in this case is not the building itself, though, but the really, truly, awful marketing campaign the developer is using.

In the late 19th century, Toronto’s lower east side was home to thriving businesses, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford films for a nickel and the stunning Moss park.

I won’t even get into the grammatical disaster of this sentence, but instead, let’s look at the details. Mary Pickford was born in 1892, her film career began in 1908. The first permanent movie house designed exclusively for showing motion pictures opened in 1902 in Los Angeles. So the whole mess is factually incorrect; if the copy had said early 20th century, I’d have believed it, but the sell here comes from the fact that the building is 19th century. If you want me to harken back to olden tymes, so that I feel all like “part of history” or something, howsabout getting that history correct?

Also, Toronto doesn’t have a “lower east side”. The neighbourhood is known as “Old York” based on the fact that it’s where the earliest buildings of the city were erected. The tactic of condo developers to make allusions in the marketing copy to cities that are far more interesting or glamorous than Toronto (New York in particular, also Miami) is so pathetic it’s laughable. Even more distressing is that people buy into it, somehow figuring that living in the “lower east side” will make them feel like cool and sophisticated New Yorkers.

I know developers need to sell units, and I know everyone is running scared in fear that the US housing crisis will hit Canada, so desperate times call for desperate measures, but I am so really tired of lifestyle marketing where the “sell” has absolutely nothing to do with the product at hand, but with a play on the purchaser’s ego and self-esteem. How about just, “We have a nice building, we think it’s a great place to live. Please come check it out”??