“Gloomy,” I think, is the word a BBC radio journalist used to describe the global economy on a recent morning.
It was said with convincing and well-enunciated Anglo authority. With the detailed news that followed—60,000 more US jobs gone, stocks plunge further, Starbucks to close 600 stores, Russian president says US not fit to offer advice on economy, McCain perpetually muddled, Obama in favor of warrantless wiretapping, retail businesses selling off stock at shocking sale prices in futile struggle to survive—my eyes began to glaze over, my brain fading into reptilian survival mode in preparation for existence as a post-consumer, post-Bush American zombie: broke, jobless and useless to the world at large.
Santa Fe is frequently referred to as a kind of fantasy land, and not only because of our image-conscious tourist industry and our faux-historic preservationism, but because we live in a kind of happy-go-lucky bubble. As conscious as Santa Feans are about global events and progressive politics, we sometimes exist in a sun-filled daze where crumbling home values and skyrocketing unemployment are like distant fireworks—startling, but only really incendiary for other people beyond the horizon. The only fire sales we’re used to seeing are on “rugs” and “Indian jewelry” and those tend to be fraudulent marketing ploys that are quickly pounced on by the authorities. Ever since the mayor was interviewed on national television about our low unemployment figures, everything has been A-OK in Santa Fe.
So it is especially juicy and depressing when the economic realities of the world at large and the farcical horror that Santa Fe Style has become collide in the form of a 145-unit condominium development that is forced to have a fire sale of its own.
“45 LUXURY CONDOMINIUM HOMES AT THE ALAMEDA IN CULTURALLY RICH SANTA FE POISED TO HIT THE AUCTION BLOCK!”
This is the “headline” of a deeply enthusiastic press release issued by Hudes Communication International in an attempt to put a joyous and celebratory spin on the fact that The Alameda Condominiums, off of Cerrillos Road on the south side of town, are not selling. The press release goes on to detail the fabulous values involved, as if the condos were something desirable, like a set of Ginsu carving knives being hocked on the shopping network. Units formerly priced as high as $310,000 may sell for as little as $199,000, the press release suggests. But wait! That’s not all! If you close escrow within 30 days of the July 20 auction, you’ll receive up to $3,000 toward closing costs! Hold on to your hats, folks: There’s more. The first five buyers to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will receive a $25,000 private garage...absolutely free!
For those watching at home, that’s a $338,000 value for just $199,000. Act now, because this is a limited edition: Only 45 of these units are available at this amazing price! Did we mention that these are “luxury” condos located in Santa Fe, NM, known as the “City Different”? Santa Fe is “a mecca for arts, culture and tourism.”
True. But, apparently, we’ve had our fill of lame condominiums. In the current climate, some developers will be forced to sell them for deep and economically troubling discounts. It is beyond my own theatrical abilities, however, to summon tears for those who fail to profit from molesting Santa Fe’s image for their own dubious, but lamentably city-permitted, sales schemes.
I wonder how a pharmaceutical-style disclaimer for The Alameda Condos would read?—you know, the ones that are said really fast at the end of television and radio ads? My fantasy:
Actual sales prices may not be as low as indicated, some of your neighbors may hate you for getting a better deal than they did, there is nothing historic or charming about these condos and absolutely no attention paid to energy efficiency, people with taste, style or aesthetic concerns may experience nausea, diarrhea, dizziness or anxiety upon entering, this offer is less a great opportunity for buyers and more a reflection of the fact that we are desperate, beyond belief, for quick cash.
Look, I’m not trying to be overly cruel, but it is almost universally offensive that the hype surrounding this auction borrows from The Alameda’s appalling marketing material, which falsely suggests the condos have been built in accordance with Santa Fe’s historic preservation ordinance and claims the units are “complementary” to the Palace of the Governors and the San Miguel Chapel.
In the following quote from the press release for the auction, I’ve added my own parenthetical commentary:
“Residents will find that the complementary design of The Alameda reflects the Santa Fe area’s natural beauty (only in its windows), scenic mountain vistas (the ones its hulking presence doesn’t block) and cultural values (now them’s fightin’ words).”
Not so strangely, the promotional Web site for the Alameda Condominiums doesn’t mention the radical auction move to sell off overstocked inventory. It maintains the party line laid out by the Houston, Texas-based development team on its magical allure in the “new heart” of Santa Fe. But just as the falsely maintained façade of a strong US economy is faltering in the wake of war and global inflation, this false representation of Santa Fe is failing to fool anyone.
One way to keep it real would be to forget selling the units at cost and claim the big deductions earned by donating the condos to Santa Fe’s two affordable housing agencies.