One of the virtues of travel is that it gives you a chance to see how your part of the country is selling itself to the outside world. After flipping though a copy of Alaska Airlines
magazine on a recent flight to San Francisco, I have to say that if Horace Greeley were shilling for regional real estate developers, he'd be saying "Go West in style, yuppie scum!" He'd take out a full-page, four-color ad to do it, too.
Current real estate pitches emphasize wealth, urban amenities, and a let-them-eat cake luxury lifestyle that is the antithesis of anything remotely regional or rooted. Local color? No. Rain? What's that? Moss, mountains, a frontier spirit? Hmmm, call the valet to take out the trash.
Here's how an ad for Vancouver, B.C.'s Ritz Carlton tower frames it: "I summer in The Hamptons, I winter in Aspen ... My home: The Ritz Carlton, Vancouver." Who are your neighbors in the adjoining $10 million units? Other wealthy dabblers who spend only six months a year in Canada
. Now that's building community.
If the Ritz isn't to your taste, skip over to the 48-story Hotel Georgia, where its "unquestionably extravagant" residences are advertised as "Delightfully cosmopolitan. Deliciously exquisite. Decidedly exclusive." If you have to ask the price, you will be definitively excluded.
In Seattle, the high-rise Escala project asks readers to "Discover Grandeur" with a shot of a penthouse view. Mount Rainier? The Olympics? No, a night-shot of a city skyline. Such glowing skylines are de-rigeur for luxury tower ads. Apparently it's more important to leave the lights on than to think about the carbon footprint. The backdrop conveniently masks the actual locale of your luxury suite. London, New York, Dubai, Shanghai – who cares? The new Seattle, like Vancouver, is positioned as a world-class purveyor of global genericism.
Which brings me to the sales pitch for a project in Ballard called Canal Station. Not pricey like the others, these condos offer something unusual in this day and age:
Canal Station was designed to remind you of a time when quality and community mattered.
Unlike now, when community doesn't matter. But it is something for which we can be nostalgic – while we're wintering in Aspen.