Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, June 13, 2005

You (Don't) really like me--DC and its suburbs

Back in the late 1990s, I was at the holiday party for my job and the husband of the director commented to me that he didn't see how "any thinking person could live in DC as long as Marion Barry was mayor." I merely replied that it took me "15 minutes to get to work....by bike" whereas his wife commuted from Gaithersburg or Germantown (whatever, it began with a "G"). He was speechless.

Anyway, I have always said that the farther you live from the core, the more you don't like the center city. Someday, I hope to test this with an attitudes survey...

Also, in the thread last year on H-DC about the closure of the City Museum, an instructor from George Mason, J.F. Saddler wrote this:

This semester in my U.S. history surveys at George Mason, I assigned my students to evaluate the (potential) effectiveness of the City Museum and the "Washington Perspectives" exhibit. I gave them a detailed list of questions that asked about, among other things, accessibility of the museum, how well the museum and exhibit held their attention, ease of "use", and clarity of the story being told. In the overall exercise, I instructed them to read the museum and its exhibit as they would a written text or an image that I had given them in class--another way of conveying history and meaning.

The summary of 125 students' answers to the four basic issues above were:

1) Accessibility: Many were put off not by the location, per se, however they were indeed apprehensive about the museum's general environment. Although they realized that the Museum is in a transitional area of the city, they were uncomfortable with what some described as the gauntlet of people asking for money as they entered the grounds of the museum. They related this as well to the level of refuse strewn around the building. In sum, many of my students--almost all of whom are Northern Virginia suburbanites--averred that they would not recommend out of town guests to visit the museum for this reason alone.

This bears thinking about.

So I find this article about tourism marketing in the Philadelphia region, "Brandywine tourism board concentrates on short trips" to be worth thinking about from the perspective of building the reputation of DC amongst people in the region. From the article:

"A new leader at the Brandywine Conference & Visitors Bureau is setting a few commonly held tourism notions on their ear. Tore Fiore, who was named permanent executive director in May 2004, has focused the bureau on convincing tourists to come for weekend or even day trips, rather than longer stays, adopting the slogan, "Minutes away for a weekend or a day."

At the same time, he wants the organization to be truer to its roots, representing not just the picturesque Brandywine River Valley but also Delaware County as a whole. "I think [in the past] we ignored Delaware County itself. It has 551,000 residents. If it were a city, it would be the 53rd largest city in the country. But it's not marketed that way. We wanted to reintroduce the area to the residents of the county," said Fiore, who was first asked in January 2004 by the BCVB's board to be interim director. He was later made permanent CEO.

"Prior to me, we advertised everywhere in the regional market. We're now advertising to Delaware County and the Philadelphia metro area, five counties," but also, he said, targeting people within two to three hours driving distance, in Harrisburg, North Jersey, Baltimore/Washington and New York."

After all, I once heard John Parsons of the National Park Service state that according to NPS surveys, 80% of the visitors to the National Mall are from the region.... If we can sell the local cultural heritage story to residents of the region, it will be an easier sell to people outside of the region.


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