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Real estate company? No, a lifestyle brand.

This past weekend a rooftop restaurant, pool, and entertainment venue called LAVELLE opened upon atop 629 King Street West here in Toronto. It’s on the rooftop of a condo by Freed Developments, that for some reason is no longer called the Thompson Residences.

Here’s a sampling of their Instagram to paint you a picture:

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I mention this not because I went, but because I think it’s interesting to see how Peter Freed is evolving his company and brand. He is best known as a real estate developer. But what he wants to do and what he is doing is turning Freed Developments into a “vertically and horizontally integrated progressive lifestyle company.”

According to this recent press release, LAVELLE is the first venture of Trademark Hospitality Inc., which itself is “a branch of Freed Hospitality.” This is him selling not just selling a place to live, but selling a particular lifestyle and a certain community – and then taking an active and ongoing role in the programming of it.

The other example that comes to mind is that of Equinox Fitness. I’m sure you all know this company, but what you may not know is that it’s owned by a real estate development firm called Related. The New York-based company acquired them in 2005 (closed in 2006) for about half a billion dollars. 

Here’s why they did it (excerpt from this press release):

Related and Equinox have historically shared similar visions. Both companies are known for their commitment to lifestyle, service, innovation and design, and have a passionate following amongst dedicated upscale consumers. The companies’ respective customers have similar demographic and psychographic profiles and both foster fiercely loyal clientele who are passionate about their brands.

Related has redefined the residential marketplace, created the benchmark for sophisticated urban living and has been committed to quality fitness facilities in its buildings since the mid-eighties. Since its inception 15 years ago, Equinox has been widely recognized for being an industry innovator and for delivering an unparalleled fitness experience.

Both companies will enjoy a number of key strategic opportunities from the partnership. Related will secure a well known brand as a quality anchor tenant for key current and future developments. This will also help Related to enhance the quality of its amenities and facilities available to residents.

So this is not a new thing. In both of these cases, the goal is to create a brand and identity centered around a precise lifestyle. I mean, Related even mentions “psychographic profiles” in their news release. They know who their audience is, just as Freed does.

Another way of looking at this is how it ties into what I see as a broader shift away from just development to more city building. It’s not just about throwing up a building and then moving on. It’s about trying to foster a certain kind of community and lifestyle. We may not all agree on what that community should be, but overall I think it’s an exciting direction for cities.

If you’re taking a similar approach in your business (or even if you’re not), I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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