The ugliness of the 2016 presidential race—and a leaked recording of Donald Trump seemingly boasting about sexually assaulting women—appears to be knocking the wind out of the Trump brand's sails.
New York Magazine reports that the newly launched Trump International Hotel in Washington DC has had to discount rooms despite peak season. Global News says that a Vancouver hotel currently under construction and bearing the Republican nominee's moniker has aroused controversy, and locals, including the mayor, are asking that the developer remove his name from the property.
And on the Upper West Side, some residents of Trump Place, a complex of high-rise condominium and rental properties on Riverside Boulevard, told Buzzfeed that they want their buildings to ditch the Trump name as well. The property was originally developed by Trump and a group of Hong Kong-based investors; in 2005, according to the New York Times, they sold three of the buildings to the Carlyle Group and the Extell Development Corporation.
It would later change hands again: 140, 160, and 180 Riverside are now managed by Equity Residential, while the properties at 200, 220, and 240 Riverside are managed by Trump International Realty. (Brick reached out to both firms for comment, but neither responded.)
Even back then, reports the Times, some locals had hoped that the Trump name would be cast away. Eleven years later, another movement to de-Trump the buildings is afoot, and this time, outrage seems to be fueling the calls for a re-christening.
Condo owners explore a re-naming
Karen*, a condo owner in one of the Trump Place buildings, shared with Brick Underground a letter she received from other tenants in the 220 Riverside building about petitioning the board to change the name. The letter notes that 57 homeowners and 24 renters signed a petition asking for the removal, the latter "stating they would rather not rent in a building with the Trump name attached to it."
As if pointing to precedent, the writers add that the northenmost building in the complex, at 240 Riverside Boulevard, has only the name "The Heritage" over its entrance, whereas the others still retain the words "Trump Place" at their entrances and on their awnings. This despite having the Trump Organization as the managing agent. "So it is possible to have a non-Trump name on it but to have Trump management," they state.
"It's embarrassing to live in the building," Karen acknowledges. "I've had lots of friends make comments about it. My kids are so disgusted with Donald Trump that they find it viscerally uncomfortable to live in a building that has his name on it." She says many of her neighbors feel the same way and want to rid the property of its association with Trump as soon as possible.
Still, it could cost a lot of money, which may explain some residents' hesitation. Others worry that the removal of the lettering and awnings would be a misuse of capital resources. "[We heard] it would cost between $200,000 and $1 million to replace the name, which would cut into the capital fund of the building," she explains. "So does it make financial sense as a protest to remove a name when there could be other capital expenses that the building could incur, and how exactly would the building even assess that?"
The letter from her neighbors points out, though, that the building management hasn't actually assessed the costs: "They have declined to obtain any actual cost estimates for changing the name on the two metallic awnings outside the building... and they have stated they do not intend to take any action as a result of the 81 signatures collected so far."
Karen says she's observed that the properties are known throughout the city as the "Trump buildings," so even if a petition to change the name was successful, it wouldn't necessarily erase the association. And despite the embarrassment she feels at that connection, Karen says Trump Place is still a nice place to live: "It’s a great building ... and the people who work in the building are wonderful."
Plenty others want the de-naming
Indeed, a petition on Change.org posted six days ago by residents of 160 Riverside clamoring to "dump the Trump name" has already collected 228 signees. "Trump’s appalling treatment of women, his history of racism, his attacks on immigrants, his mockery of the disabled, his tax avoidance, his outright lying—all are antithetical to the values we and our families believe in," it pleads, adding that "many of the staff members of our building are minorities or immigrants" and that "working in a building bearing his name is insulting to them." It also points out that "just as celebrities have their endorsements rescinded for bad behavior, Equity Residential should rescind its leasing arrangement with Donald Trump, whose behavior has surely tarnished the Equity Residential brand."
When Brick spoke to locals on Riverside Boulevard Thursday morning, many empathized with the desire for the name change. One woman, while not a resident of any of the Trump Place buildings, said she had heard of the proposal and noted that she lived nearby but had opted not to buy in Trump Place because of the association. Another said the name change was "a good idea" and a smart way to handle a decline in the prestige of the Trump brand.
One longtime Trump Place resident, though, said that the petition was moot because the properties are no longer associated with Trump: "He does this all the time, like with his hotel: Even if he didn’t build it, his name has to go on it for a certain period of time. But at the end of that time, if Equity Management decides they no longer want his name on the building, then it’s up to them, they can take it down," he said. In the meantime, he added, "people can complain all they want that they don’t want the Trump name on the building—then move."
No hits to property values—so far
Max Kozower, a broker with Maxwell Jacobs who has overseen a number of sales in the Trump Place buildings, says the Republican nominee's antics have not hurt property values. "While I recognize that some find the association with Trump to be negative, net-net, I still consider it to be a strong positive as the Trump name conveys the excellent layouts, finishes, amenities and service level the buildings offer," Kozower says. "We've seen a softening in the market overall so I think any depreciation in the Trump Place properties would be typical of the decline in the overall market."
It seems, though, that the management at many other Trump-associated properties are getting jumpy. The Trump name is conspicuously absent from his latest line of hotels, the Chicago Tribune reports. Meanwhile, per DNAInfo, the auction of the presidential candidate's childhood home in Jamaica Estates has been postponed to "provide prospective bidders with more time to evaluate the property"—and perhaps decide whether or not its connection to Donald Trump, however tenuous, is a damaging one.
*Name changed to protect the resident's anonymity.
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