UAlbany beats developer’s wish to name apartments ‘The Dane’


ALBANY — When Redburn Development Partners decided to convert an extended-stay hotel on Washington Avenue into student apartments, they thought The Dane was a perfect name for the modern complex.

That was until the University of Albany sent the developers a cease and desist letter, laying out plans for the Dane slightly askew.

UAlbany confirmed to have sent a letter to Redburn. “This was done as part of UAlbany’s routine efforts to monitor and enforce our rights to the university name and trademarks,” a university spokesperson said.

What the Redburn team thought would be a clever and fun name marketed with the university’s purple and yellow colors to grab students’ attention quickly became a headache before the developer’s strategic marketing plan could prevail.

“It was too close to college,” Redburn executive vice president Elizabeth Jojo said. “The last thing we wanted to do was upset the university, our biggest source of business.”

Jojo acknowledged it was a “mistake” in hindsight, though she said she had done her homework and found no copyright infringement deterring the Pine Bush Suites from taking this name.

Redburn quickly changed course, taking a subtle approach to the name, heavily veiling its Great Dane reference by nicknaming it the Astro Apartments, after the Jetsons’ beloved pet dog.

“It’s so far from all of UAlbany, I don’t think anyone can argue with it,” Jojo said.

And referencing the Jetsons fits well with Redburn’s desire to renovate the hotel into a modern apartment complex with the same mid-century flair as the cartoon.

Redburn bought the Fairfield Inn and TownePlace Suites, adjacent to each other, auctioned for $5.2 million in April 2019. They decided to keep the Fairfield Inn as part of the Marriott flagship.

But when considering the renovations needed to bring Towneplace Suites up to Marriott standards, it made more sense to drop the flag and run it as an independent extended-stay hotel under a new name, Jojo explained.

Thus, the Pine Bush Suites emerged. Developers didn’t want to overlook the property’s location opposite a university, which made it an excellent candidate for student accommodation.

Jojo said they chose to continue to run Pine Bush Suites as a hotel and market it solely to students for the past two years. However, it was harder to market than expected and did not attract as many students as they had hoped.

The hotel has become busy with a mix of students, long-term residents and transient guests.

So their redevelopment, again, took another course. Redburn applied to the city’s planning board to re-zoning to accommodate apartments.

Redburn needs another approval before it has the city’s full backing. Jojo expects them to get their final “yes” at the planning board meeting in April, even though he has already started advertising Astro Apartments.

The city’s planning department did not respond to The Times Union’s request for comment.

Additional renovations will cost Redburn around half a million dollars while producing 75 studios, 20 two-bedroom units and a handful of one-bedroom suites.

Starting rents are estimated at $1,295, including all utilities, and are open to all applicants, not just students. If all goes without a hitch, Redburn will hatch a two-phase renovation in June with the expectation that everything will be up and running by August 1.

“I’m not going to say we’re sure to run and have a cheap extended stay hotel,” admitted Jojo.

“It was a very interesting experience to do this. And we met some really great people, but we love our residents as much as we love our hotel guests,” she concluded.

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