What's In A Name? How And Why Landlords Rebrand Their Buildings
A year after buying a nondescript office building in Midtown Atlanta, John Courey decided it was time for a change.
After the founder of New York-based investment firm Crestlight Capital purchased the 11-story 730 Peachtree, he pumped $6M into major renovations that include a new lobby and common area with suspension swings, space for a bar and restaurant and a third-floor social hub.
The last big change to 730 Peachtree is its name.
Crestlight Capital is changing it to Circa 730.
“It's kind of a tired building that no one really knows about,” Courey said. "We want to re-energize it and reintroduce it as one of the coolest creative-type buildings in all of Midtown."
Circa 730 is the latest in a string of commercial buildings whose owners have rebranded them by changing their monikers — in some cases, household names — in hopes of establishing a new image, repairing a reputation or even just making it easier to find.
Remember One Capital City Plaza? Now it's 3350 Peachtree. The Millennium in Midtown is now just 10 10th St. The Equitable Building in Downtown Atlanta is now 100 Peachtree. How about Centennial Tower in Downtown? That one is now 101 Marietta.
RADCO does this with its multifamily portfolio, branding many of the properties it buys as either Ashford or Radius, names that have positive connotations to its working-class audience, Radow said.
For RADCO and other apartment landlords, name rebranding is often tied to reputation. RADCO may buy an older community that may have had former residents complain about its quality on the web and other social media platforms. With the firm spending capital to improve the property, it needs also to change the name to distance itself from previous perceptions.
“Whatever the issues are, you've got to solve them. But this just gives you a clean slate,” Radow said. "The market will give you some time to prove it out."
Giving a building a new name may also have simply to do with changes in tenants, Transwestern Director of Research Keith Pierce said. When Bank of America Plaza — the tallest skyscraper in the Southeast — was first built at 600 Peachtree St., C&S Bank was the main tenant. But then C&S was acquired, ultimately leading to the bank falling under the Bank of America umbrella.
“When the tower at 600 Peachtree St. was under construction, the lead tenant was named C&S/Sovran, but it was NationsBank by the time the building was completed,” Pierce said. "Later, of course, the NationsBank building became known as Bank of America Plaza. So the changing of the primary tenant’s name is a pretty straightforward reason to change the building’s brand if the two are intertwined."
Changing the name of a building can also help a landlord focus its branding toward a specific audience, ML Jordan CEO Jordan Lipsey said. ML Jordan is a marketing firm that specializes in working with commercial real estate firms. Lipsey said he has seen a trend of firms rebranding to appeal more toward technology tenants.
“They see a tilt or a change in the demographic or consumer that they're trying to attract for that particular type of property,” he said.
Changing the name gives landlords a reason to update marketing materials, especially online marketing like a new website or a new push on real estate websites like CoStar.
“It's like McDonald's coming out with the McRib,” Lipsey said. "It gives you a reason to message people."
Case in point: Rubenstein Partners purchased an 11-building, 1M SF mid-rise office complex in the Cumberland/Galleria submarket called Interstate North Office Park in 2016. The firm infused the project with $15M in capital improvements that included new outdoor workspaces, new lobbies, building systems and even walking and biking trails.
When it came time to rename the building earlier this year, Rubenstein tied Interstate North to the newest icon of Cobb County: The Battery at SunTrust Park, the mixed-use complex that is home to the Atlanta Braves and the team's new stadium.
The project is now called Pennant Park, and its marketing is closely allied with the Braves facility, including connecting its trails to the park. In a recent press release, officials with Pennant Park said the rebranding allows Rubenstein to tie the office park into The Battery's amenity base.
“The renovations are unlocking the full value for this asset and its renaming reflects the asset's transition to a unique offering for office tenants at the center of northwest Atlanta,” Rubenstein Regional Director Taylor Smith said in a release. "Pennant Park offers great amenities and its location near the Braves' new landmark work-live-play development enhances the overall appeal."
PMRG recently rebranded the Peachtree Lenox Building, which it purchased in 2015, reverting it to its address, 3379 Peachtree. For PMRG President Bill Weghorst, the firm had a very practical, and modern, reason for the change: Uber.
Focusing on the address as the name makes the building easier for people to locate.
“Everybody now uses Uber and navigation [systems], and Peachtree Lenox means nothing,” Weghorst said. “You can make the whole building newer just by doing that. It's just an easy, inexpensive way to give a fresh feel to a property without spending any money.”
“Rebranding is difficult, but not impossible,” Pierce said. "It requires clarity of messaging and dogged persistence, and it doesn’t happen overnight."
Sometimes, it doesn't happen at all.
When CWCapital had control of Resurgens Plaza in Buckhead in 2011, the special servicer dropped the Resurgens name and just called it The Plaza. But when Lonestar Funds purchased the tower in 2014, it reinstated the Resurgens name, Weghorst said. Zeller Realty, which also recently rebranded 100 Peachtree, now owns the tower, but the firm has kept the Resurgens name.
“You don't want to make a third change because that just makes the building seem like it's plagued with problems,” Weghorst said.
Sometimes a name is just too iconic to ever be fully erased.
“Sometimes people can’t stop calling a building the same thing they always did," Pierce said. "For those of us who have been in real estate for a while, One Atlantic Center still is sometimes called the IBM Tower. And there is a building near I-285 and I-75 that will always and forever be 'the Gorilla Building.' And that was never even its name.”