Isabella Apartments: it’s a scandal, it’s an outrage that they aren’t leasing quickly.

Okay, since I toiled relentlessly in putting together those two Forest Fair Mall articles, I’m entitled to slack off for a post.  And this time it’s not even a decent photograph; on a bright winter day it’s hard not to eliminate the hard shadows.  Sorry about that.  But the point still comes across, as will my typical over-analysis.IMG_2313It’s a sign promoting Isabella, a recently renovated old apartment building in a gentrifying neighborhood in Washington DC.  It’s not much—these things never are (that’s the point of my blog)—but it’s reflective of the need for a marketing team to have at least one person with a particularly good command of English.Isabella: outrage to describe an apartment building“Simply Outrageous Apartments”.  Okay, so it’s not exactly humorous-funny.  But weird-funny?  I’d say so.  Is “outrageous” really the best adjective for promoting the features of an apartment?  I recognize that it’s a word of subtle semantic ramifications (much like “funny”), but few of the connotations are positive.  The etymology, of course, involves a Middle French-influenced adjectival variant of the Middle English noun ” outrage “, which in itself has no real positive connotations whatsoever: an insult, grievance, injustice, violation of decency, and so forth.  At the very least, the adjective form of the word allows for one definition that confers something remotely sellable—the “highly unusual or unconventional; extravagant; remarkable”—but it’s the fifth of five definitions listed at this particular source, implying that it is less common than the ones that precede it (all negative).

More uncomfortable, though, is one of the nouns that most frequently follows this word, and thus becomes a common association.  Definition number three—“passing reasonable bounds; intolerable; shocking”—all words synonymous with outrageous that usually help modify the noun “price”.  And I fear that it what the management company is going to face when trying to market the Isabella Apartments.  It’s probable that this is still a respectable accommodation, and seeing “simply outrageous” may ultimately mean little.  This is Washington DC, after all, so we expect the price for apartments to be an outrage.  So, in all likelihood, since most people don’t think about these things as much as I do, it won’t impede these units from getting leased.  But it’s not likely to expedite it either.’

Then again, perhaps the person responsible for putting “simply outrageous” on a sign out front the Isabella Apartments is just making a hat-tip to a piece of pop culture that all of us who enjoyed cartoons after school in the late 80s can recall with nostalgia.  Yeah, that’s the ticket. 

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8 thoughts on “Isabella Apartments: it’s a scandal, it’s an outrage that they aren’t leasing quickly.

  1. AvatarChris B

    Unless I’m misreading it, the sign says “renovated 2014”. That’s no longer really “recent”, is it? (For a wood sign, that’s pretty old.)

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      Good eyes. Yes, it says that. And you’re right: considering how quickly rental units depreciate, six years is not that recent. But call me cynical: I’ve come to the conclusion that the urban rental market has basically devolved into two categories: “just renovated / new luxury” (market-rate tenants) and “seriously going downhill” (when most new tenants are on some form of rental assistance). And since I suspect the Isabella’s owners still seek market-rate tenants (which, in this part of DC, is about 80% young professionals), they’re probably trying to wring what value they can out of newness and do not intend significant renovations again for at least another 10 years or so.

      Then again, if the renovation standards were anything approaching those of my current residence (which still brands itself as new construction, even though it’s approaching four years old), it will need a renovation desperately in about 5 years. My own facilities will probably be attracting mostly rental-assistance tenants by 2025, given the rapidly deteriorating physical conditions of the property, smartly hidden behind a veneer of ultra-hip interior design.

      Reply
      1. AvatarBrian M

        There is a 60s block of austere boxy apartments near my office in a blue collar suburb of San Francisco. For years, they were basically “affordable housing” (although there were no subsidies per se associated with the project.

        New owners came in, smartly painted the stucco boxes with trendy tones, planted a few flowers, and rebranded the complex “The Element @ 1600. I am sure they were going for a more affluent population!

        Reply
        1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

          No other changes beyond a fresh coat of paint and some flowers? Yep, I’d say it was an upgrade. Probably in a tight market like that, a coat of paint and a relevant name, and voila–you’ve raised the assessed value of your property by 80%.

          Reply
          1. AvatarBrian M

            The INTERESTING thing in our market is the newest, fanciest, shiniest, hippest apartment complex was actually bought this year by an affordable housing operator. The subsidized bonds were so lucrative, even in a low interest environment, that they were able to buy the complex and transition it to “affordable” housing. We are not talking deep low income, but still, the rents will drop noticeably!

            Reply
          2. AvatarBrian M

            I went to their website, actually. And…bearing in mind professional photography tricks…the unit interiors are nicer now than I expected!

            Reply
  2. AvatarChris B

    Also, I seem to recall that “outrageous” took on the sign’s (intended) meaning way back in the Age of SoCal Surferspeak; I would have guessed it to be more than a footnote meaning in the dictionary. (Remember the “Nutrageous” candy bar? That was a play on the same meaning.)

    But I’m now old, and that was a particular time and place…

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirtAmericanDirt

      Probably the same use of “outrageous” as my “Jem and the Holograms” reference. Which iI’d imagine is the meaning they intended for these apartments. But, given that the median age of apartment-hunters in this DC neighborhood is probably about 26, would they even understand that reference?

      Reply

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