‘Are you serious?’ Koifman recalls bursting out when Lanterra Developments, a client of her firm NKPR, suggested dubbing its latest project after her about a year and half ago. But the Toronto PR powerhouse is now all in.
Naming is an art — when it comes to both babies and buildings.
In Toronto, when it comes to the latter — a city with seemingly as many condo developments as Martha Stewart has chickens — the moniker game is a tricky one. Running the gamut, they appear to go from the quotidian (buildings that double as their addresses, think One St. Thomas Residences) to the nodding to history (the Chocolate Company Lofts on Queen, so named because it was that once) to the bizarrely sci-fi (there is a condo named Solaris) to the absolutely geography-confused (exhibit A: South Beach Condos and Lofts in Etobicoke).
What we have never witnessed until, well, just this week? A development named after a publicist. Yeah, that happened. Just announced: Natasha The Residences, a new one coming to 263 Adelaide St. W. Courtesy of Lanterra Developments (whose portfolio includes buildings such as Maple Leaf Square and 50 Scollard), the new 47-storey highrise is, indeed, a tribute to Natasha Koifman, the Toronto PR powerhouse, social set staple and Jacqueline-of-many-trades. Set for the southeast corner of John and Adelaide, it also happens to be where the flack first opened her company, NKPR, some 20 years ago.
“I remember thinking ‘Why can’t I just be named Kim?’” Koifman laughed, when I checked in with her the other day and we got to talking about her relationship with her name early on. Born in Kyiv, and moving to Edmonton when she was four, Natasha was a little too conspicuous, a little too exotic. Indeed, “Natalia” is what it still says on her passport. The Slavic version was Canadian-ized to Natasha, somewhere along the way. And, well, if nomenclature is destiny … so are condos.
Growing up, she did not know too many other Natashas, but it seems like she — and this new building — are right on trend. “Black Widow,” that summer Marvel flick, is a.k.a. Natasha, after all.
“Are you serious?” she recalls bursting out when Lanterra — which has been a NKPR client for a while — suggested dubbing its latest project after her about a year and half ago. Since her office is in the area where the building has been going for ages (even before the TIFF Bell Lightbox went up), they just thought it made sense. Plus, as chairman Mark Mandelbaum puts it in the press release, “Natasha’s career path and lifestyle are exemplary of the success of this neighbourhood, and we look forward to commemorating this with Natasha The Residences.”
It also perhaps speaks to the blurring that has been happening for a while between the personal and professional across various industries in the social media age — but even more pronounced in the world of PR. Where “publicist” starts and “influencer” ends is, alas, an open question. And, for Koifman, this has seemingly been a deliberate strategy forever — consider that, unlike other publicists, the Instagram account for her company has always also been her personal account. There is no demarcation.
Having a building named after you is just the sort of thing to bring out the infamous Tall Poppy Syndrome from many in this city, however. Does that worry her? Especially since there have been whispers of this sort of thing re: Koifman’s ambition for years, particularly from others in the PR sandbox?
“You are going to have people who love you and you are going to have people who hate you. You can’t really control that,” she matter-of-facts.
The one-time single mom who had a baby at 18 and then built her business brick by brick, adds: “My entire career, when I think about it, the most important thing is to be authentic. Be you.”
For now, she is all in, in terms of the building (which will probably open in about three years). Working with Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge, who is doing the interiors, she is involved in every way. “One thing I wanted to make sure, especially with my name on it, that residents could use the amenities spaces. That it truly be live, work and play.” So, yeah, the “launderette” idea she pushed, propelled by her rom-com fantasies (“even though there are washers and dryers in the unit, we wanted it to feel like a social thing”), a grand piano planned for the sky lobby (Natasha herself plays) and also a communal pizza kitchen in the works (who does not love pizza?).
Considering that Koifman is known for always dressing in black (she is maniacal about it), I had to ask: is the palette in the residences going to lean dark? “Black and white,” she comes back. “Monochromatic.”
Next to the money she has helped raised for Haiti — $33 million via the APJ Gala she hosts every year during the Toronto International Film Festival — this building project is now the thing she sees as a career highlight.
“I would never have thought someone would ask me to be part of a project like this. I do not think it has fully hit me,” she says.
What is in a name, indeed?
CORRECTION — JULY 28, 2021: This story has been edited from an earlier version that gave an incorrect name for the APJ Gala.
Source: The Star