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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Maybe not a branding campaign, but a good image building campaign nonetheless

I was maybe a bit mean about the initiative in Prince George's County to find themselves. After all, when I wrote commercial district revitalization framework plans, discussion of the community's image and position in the market was generally a significant part of the plan.

Funny thing is that both Brunswick, Georgia and Cambridge, Maryland have addressed points that I made in their respective plans. (The local newspaper in Brunswick even did some redesign after I pointed out how dowdy it was).

I first wrote about this in 2005, in an early entry on "Town-City branding or "We are all destination managers now"." This entry "Identity ≠ branding or Authenticity is the basis of identity" lists a lot of other entries on this topic.

But in the plans I wrote something like this (this is from the Cambridge plan):

Just as the study team believes that "we are all destination managers now," elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner.

That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.

The materials that the community uses to communicate (print media advertising, brochures, websites, radio and television commercials, billboards, public relations placements, press releases, etc.) also must be consistent with the vision and positioning of the community’s branding program.

The Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh has an image development ad campaign running now. I came across one of the ads online, probably at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website.

It's the kind of campaign that Prince George's County needs to start with, in beginning the process of honing in on the characteristics they want to emphasize. It's a good model.

But the contrast, even with Pittsburgh, is significant. PG County's housing market is in shambles right now. So whereas all the Pittsburgh ads focus on the relative strength of their residential and commercial real estate market, PG County can't do that. And they have issues with ethics in government, and crime. And that lack of "place capital" issue.

On the other hand, in terms of place capital, Prince George's County has a number of important assets. There's the University of Maryland College Park, a number of strong and attractive communities, a decent bikeway system (which could be a lot better), the USDA Experiment Station, one of the U.S.'s earliest examples of a garden city, Greenbelt, the Gateway Arts District, a number of historic sites and assets--the county is 350+ years old, proximity to DC, the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, significant transit assets that need to be better utilized, etc.




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