Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Urban" is not a marketing buzzword

At Blaine & Iowa, near UCR, a new set of apartments is going up. Sterling Highlander isn't anything that would normally catch my attention. They're pretty standard apartments targeted at undergraduates, with dormitory-like bed-rent policies and shared amenities-- and like most of their ilk, they're pretty expensive. However, the advertising for the community caught my eye while riding down Blaine yesterday.

They advertise the complex as "trendy" and "urban."

Now, I'm not going to try to argue with the "trendy" bit-- they might be right, and I'm certainly no trend-setter myself-- but the word "urban" actually means something, and it means something not satisfied by this apartment complex.

These apartments sit on one corner of two high-speed arterial roads.* The other three corners are occupied by fairly standard suburban strip-mall retail, including several fast-food restaurants, an EZ Lube, and a K-Mart. The apartments around it are pretty standard garden-type apartments. The complex itself is not mixed-use (although another Sterling property on University is), and it will have free parking for all residents.

So what, exactly, makes this apartment complex "urban"?

According to the web site, it's the floorplans.

Now, I'm not saying there's nothing to like about this property from an environmental standpoint. It will be a rather dense project in an already dense area, they will be providing bicycle storage and a bicycle lending program, and the property is adjacent to several transit lines (1, 10, 14, and 51). And, despite the massive parking lots, each of those suburban strip malls is relatively walkable from the property. Furthermore, the mere fact that the company is trying to market their apartments as "urban" shows the level to which young people are seeking dense, walkable urban places.

Still, though, I think it's misleading to call a car-centric project-- especially one that they widened Iowa Ave. for-- in a firmly suburban area, "urban."

* In the Google Maps image, the project area is the dirt lot on the northeast corner of Iowa & Blaine.

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