On April 25, 1958, business owners and residents in Boston's West End neighborhood received eviction letters from the Boston Redevelopment Authority and watched as their entire community was razed to make way for apartment high-rises and office buildings. The subsequent redevelopment is a textbook study in urban renewal gone awry—and remains an emotional issue to this day.
To point towards a new future and honor the past, Chicago-based Equity Residential and Boston-based strategic branding firm Kelley Habib John devised “The West End Is Again,” a tour-de-force brand and marketing campaign launched in conjunction with the opening of Equity's Vesta and Asteria properties at the five-building West End community. The challenge: overcome local biases to urban redevelopment while at the same time achieving premium rents for a high-rise of luxury apartments.
“This was an opportunity to move beyond the long-running anxiety around the past of West End,” says Equity executive vice president of operations David Santee. “We think it is a win-win for the city, the mayor, for Equity Residential, and ultimately for the people that live in the community.” Marketing collateral used in the $1.4 million campaign (inclusive of rental concessions) incorporated 14-story building wraps, billboards and transit posters, branded T-shirts and wine bottles, door hangers, and brochures, all of which were backed by a high-end, high-tech leasing office featuring model units, videos, virtual walkthroughs, and large-format photography of the units' views overlooking downtown Boston and Beacon Hill.
Like any multifamily manager worth their weight in marketing dollars, Equity backed up the branding with world-class resident services. “Our promise is about living and breathing and demonstrating a commitment to the West End resident,” says Equity marketing director Clancy Weaver. “It is about living in a neighborhood where everybody knows your name.” And Boston renters seem to agree—lease velocities have surpassed expectations at the property, enabling Equity to achieve rents between $1,800 and $7,500 that were likewise 40 percent above pro forma expectations.
Fast Facts Project: West End Apartments
Developer: Equity Residential
Opened: Various phases opened between November 2007 and May 2008
No. of Units: 274
Unit Mix: Studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and townhomes
Rents: $1,800 to $7,500
Budget: $1.4 million