A definitive grading of Madison apartment building names

Dude, we’re hum-bucking the standards when it comes to gentrified branding.
A collage shows the logos of several recent Madison apartment developments, including Humbucker Apartments, Ella, and The Standard, over a grainy background of an architectural drawing of a building facade.
Illustration by Scott Gordon.

Dude, we’re hum-bucking the standards when it comes to gentrified branding.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

The Standard is a new apartment building located on East Washington Avenue next to Burr Jones Park, just slightly off the Yahara River. Its five stories are easy to spot rising in the distance when you head east from the Capitol: with contrasting gray siding clad around its block-like structure, The Standard doesn’t quite have the curb-appeal of some of Madison’s historic downtown brick mainstays. But that’s not quite the point with The Standard: featuring a gym, yoga studio, rock climbing wall, movie theater room, and a saltwater pool, this building is built to encompass all your recreational needs. Which is great, because the places that are walkable from the building require you to wander along or cross East Wash—essentially, a six-lane highway. It’s also set to be home to the first east side Starbucks as well as the new location of the beloved east side fine-dining spot Mint Mark. Along with one-bedroom apartments that go for $2,000, there’s only one question we have left: 

The Standard what

As is the case with many newer apartment buildings in Madison, I don’t really have a clue. The standard for newly constructed luxury living solutions costing almost twice the rent the median Dane County resident can afford? The standard for introducing union-busting chains to a neighborhood rife with pro-union lawn signs? In any case, it seems like a lovely place to live if you can afford it (and don’t mind the roar of summer stoplight drag-racing on East Wash). It’s just that the name is lacking. If I was smarter (or a trained reporter), I might have a more in-depth commentary about Madison’s current housing crisis. Instead, however, I bring you something more in line with my skill, wit, and ability: a definitive ranking of some of the names of Madison’s apartment complexes.

The Humbucker (1216 Spring St.)

Featuring a sign that incorporates what appears to be Fender Stratocaster (a guitar, I should say, famous for the bright tone of its single coil pickups, and not equipped with humbucker pickups), The Humbucker really swings for the fences here. The Cap Times reported in 2016 that the building’s developer stuck with the name because it was unforgettable. Unfortunately, a lot of horrible radio jingles are also unforgettable. I can’t imagine many residents ordering delivery and proudly saying “humbucker” over the phone to the person on the other end. F

The Dude Abodes (902 Drake St.)

If you’re ready to give up your Big Lebowski dorm-room posters but not quite ready for people to not immediately know your particular taste in widely-beloved cult-classic films, then buddy, I’ve got a building for you. This is the one that sparked The Cap Timesin-depth reporting on building names from seven years ago, but surprisingly isn’t the worst building name in our fair city. If you shorten it to “The Dude,” you could perhaps convince your friends that your building just has a fun nickname. If New York is the fifth character in Sex And The City, then maybe The Dude is just your third roommate. D-

The Gordon on Roxbury (480 N. Sherman Ave., Maple Bluff)

If you were concerned which The Gordon building was going to be covered, don’t worry, there’s only one. Why the developers felt they needed to add “on Roxbury” to the building’s official name, well, who can say? The Gordon on its own is a spectacular name, existing potentially as a nod to A) half of all adult males in the northeastern provinces of Canada B) Tone Madison‘s intrepid publisher C) my dog. Bias aside, adding “on Roxbury” is just a treat. It’s like all those little villages in England: Stoke-on-Trent, or Stratford-upon-Avon, etc. Quaint! A-

The James (432 W. Gorham St.)

We’re quickly getting article fatigue here. Why the “the?” It could just be James, or James Apartments, or James Living, or Building James. I kinda like Building James. That could be a type of person, one who builds, and also, coincidentally, is named James. However, we have none of that. “The James” is grammatically vague, and as an off-campus student housing center, it should at least pass English 101 muster. Still, you can say it aloud to a friend without throwing up. C

Nexus at Union Corners (2521 E. Washington Ave.)

Now we’re talkin’. Do you want to live in a spaceship? Or at least a way station positioned at the edge of a wormhole? Nexus at Union Corners is ready for you. It uses a giant red “X” for its branding, and for a new building, the rents are at least somewhat less egregious than others. The amenities list fails to mention “intergalactic saloon” like I expected it to, but as a busy interstellar hub I assume they’re prepared to open one up soon. The gigantic gold colored statue out front of a Civil War Union soldier does at least suggest there is a holodeck.  B-

Ella (2860 E. Washington Ave.)

Finally, a slam dunk. Named after the iconic Ella’s Deli that once stood where the apartment building now does, Ella the building features colorful illustrations on its exterior to pay tribute to the deli’s colorful landmark carousel. It’s a mixed-income building, with reduced rent rates for those who make less than the Dane County median income. It’s a simple name, has historical significance, and casually rolls off the tongue in conversation. Just don’t do the Rihanna thing and you’ll be golden. A

The Post Apartments (131 E. Lakeside St.)

This one’s kinda funny if you read it the right way, with “post” as an adjective. Post-apartments? You mean it’s some sort of future version of a domicile that we haven’t even conceived of yet? “Post” is also kinda fun to say aloud. Try it. Post… post… post… kinda loses all meaning and just becomes ambient sound after a few times. Post… post… post… C+

Hawks Ridge (2334 Talc Trail)

The best way to name something is to put a place after an animal. Dog Basin. Dolphin Bay. Lion Field. Hawks Ridge. It’s got everything I need to know about what it is right there in the name. On the website, it would seem that Hawks Ridge has an unofficial slogan of “Enjoy the outdoors!” Thanks, Hawks Ridge. I think I will. A+

The Ideal Apartments (901 Drake St.)

If you’re gonna call your shot like this you better deliver, and somehow listing that it’s walkable to two major hospitals in your community amenities list doesn’t fully convince me. Still, the name overall is innocuous, and at least the grammar works. B-

The Marling (1825 E. Washington Ave.)

I don’t really know what this means but I do know very much that I would love to see Steve Harvey read the name of this building and then go off for about five to seven minutes wondering what the hell this word is. D

Lucky Apartments (777 University Ave.)

Somehow seeing an elephant standing on a globe with the word “LUCKY” across it on a banner leaves me wondering if I’m looking at a student housing building or the logo for a Golden Age Hollywood production studio. I’m less offended than just confused on how we got here, but for furnished student housing (where some units have a Speedcook oven), you could do worse than Lucky. B

Tyberius Terrace (5302 Odana Rd.)

What might have been a cheeky nod to a favorite space opera franchise becomes less so when the floor plans are named things like “Spock,” “Borg,” and “Klingon.” And yet, I have to respect the ever-so-blatant potential copyright infringement for commercial purposes. Maybe it’s named after the famous baby doctor who wrote that book. And Borg is just a Scandinavian last name. And Klingon…. Klingon could be… yeah, not a lot of wiggle room there. But hey, if you know what you want, and that wanting is related to living in a place that ties directly into your fandom, I suppose Tyberius Terrace fits the bill. B+

The Saddlery (313 W. Wilson St.)

Once an actual saddlery, this building was recently placed on the State Register of Historic Places. That means that Middleton-based NCG Hospitality can access state tax credits to help fund its remodel. And what better way to pay tribute to a historic building than construct an… “aparthotel.” That’s right: full apartment units that are managed as luxury boutique hotel rooms that you can rent for short-term or long-term—but not as a permanent residence. So while you may be looking to yee-haw your way into an affordable housing situation this summer, I hope your horse don’t need a saddle: this place can’t—and won’t—help you in any way, shape, or form. F

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