Mock Protest Attracts Buyers

In this real estate market, builders are having to taking it to the streets to sell condos in downtown San Jose. Downtown workers may have noticed a troop of young, attractive, sign-wielding “protesters” marching up and down Santa Clara Street last Friday afternoon, chanting slogans like “Less Dues, Better Views” while handing out superhero-adorned pamphlets. This intrusive if creative bit of urban guerrilla marketing was paid for by Barry Swenson, whose company is trying the get the word out about its City Heights high-rise condo development at 175 W. St. James St.

Their marketing firm Pacific Marketing Associates Inc. came up with the pseudopolitical action scheme during a brainstorm on how to reach downtown workers directly. “They brought up the idea to us, and we thought, OK, that’s different. That would help generate some excitement and get people in the door,” says Christy Marbry, part of the development and project management team for Barry Swenson Builders.

They say that these fake rallies have paid off: Traffic has tripled at City Heights, and they received four deposits this past weekend.

“This is pretty unique, we hadn’t done anything like it in the past,” says marketing manager Carrie Newbury. “Were going to be thinking about doing more because it’s outside the box. Even the graphics we’re using in this campaign are really eye-catching. They’re not necessarily a real-estate sign.”

In fact, Pacific Marketing represents three downtown condo towers: The 88, the Axis and City Heights. Since The 88 bagged Safeway, it seems like City Heights’ advertising rally and the fact they are now featuring cartoon superheroes is indicative of increased efforts to attract their young professional target buyer.

Meanwhile, the Axis is using its stylish condo development as a plush event space itself. Through December, they are hosting an [email protected] show in one of their unsold penthouses, and they even held a recent fashion show/cancer benefit, the idea being that if they get a bunch of cultured people in the lobby, they’ll start to picture themselves living in the posh building.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


    • Nope.

      The 88 was my first choice, since it is a mere 2 blocks from my office.  Thus, I could walk everywhere.

      But their prices are so far above current market reality that I decided to stay in WG.

      And there’s always the threat that they’ll finally give up and start renting them out en masse; or the threat that the project owner will go belly up, leaving the few homeowners with the financial responsibility for ALL the HOA dues for the project.

      Same holds true of 360 & Axis. 

      If they want to sell of all the units, they need to drop at least 35% from their original asking prices.

  1. No amount of marketing can change the fact there is an airport downtown, and most people DO NOT want to be near an airport, unless they are actually flying some place.

  2. Barry Swenson pushed his high profit high rise residential towers with no smart growth features through Council and now Isn’t great he got struck with unsalable high rises with no retail stores, parks, and no / few jobs

    IMHO, could not have happened to a greedier don’t care about San Jose developer than Barry – karma

    • A little harsh Karma. Barry runs his business in San Jose and employs many people who support extended families. He gives generously to many in San Jose like History San Jose, Boy Scouts, San Jose State, O’Connor Hospital, Guadalupe River Park, InnVision, Multiple Sclerosis and more.

    • No smart growth features?  It’s a high rise residential tower within walking distance of dozens of office buildings and multiple retail shops.  Each of us may or may not like it, but that fits every definition of smart growth I’ve ever heard.

      The parks complaint is valid, but should go to the city council.  The developer pays for parks: new developments pay a parks fee to purchase parks land for the new residents.  He can’t force the city to actually build the park.

      If that money didn’t get spent on a new park, that’s the council’s fault.  The council are the ones who spent, or misspent, the money.