Business district and community branding: tougher than it needs to be and DC's Golden Triangle district as an example
The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District covers the area between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle. The BID has invested in public space improvements including a landscaped median on Connecticut Avenue, arty bicycle racks, banners, and programs a number of events in Farragut Square.
Farragut Square is a great asset to build upon, and the Connecticut and K Street intersection might just be the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city.
One of their innovative ideas has been to place movable tables and chairs in Farragut Square, making it easier to eat lunch, as Farragut Square is one of the key staging areas for the city's armada of food trucks.
The commercial district is mostly modern office buildings with some hotels, including the Mayflower, the National Geographic Museum, the Sumner School Museum and Archives, and the YMCA. The three Metro stations serve about 70,000 riders daily during the work week. The amount of housing is miniscule.
There are a bunch of restaurants although chain branches have been closing, and a strip of legacy small commercial buildings on M Street NW and Connecticut Avenue.
I've thought that if the adjoining property owners were willing, it would be possible to change the building uses around the square to a serious concentration of retail, comparable to Union Square in San Francisco, which is anchored by major department stores, but DC doesn't quite have the population to pull it off.
The BID has had difficulties in recruiting retailers ("Golden Triangle is having to work harder for retail tenants," Washington Post).
Plus this area faces ferocious intra-city competition for high profile retailers from Downtown, Georgetown, and the new CityCenter development.
New banner campaign: fail? The BID has just launched a new banner campaign and I don't think it's very effective in pushing forward branding and identity objectives.
Failed branding isn't unique to the Golden Triangle.
I have written about this issue from time to time using Baltimore ("More (pathetic?) city branding efforts... (Baltimore)") and Georgetown ("Georgetown: A subtle but important difference between branding and identity-positioning") among other examples. (Although the Georgetown post was written about the previous, not current, leadership.)
The banners list the name of the Golden Triangle with the web address, and the street name on which the banner is hung.
Inset from the city's business district profile publication for the Golden Triangle district, DC. One problem with office workers is that they don't do much retail shopping, other than for convenience goods.
The need to take the district's branding to the next level. People already know the street names. What needs to happen is a leveraging of the prominent streets from an individual to a collective identity, to define the area as a distinct and differentiated "district."
In short, the focus needs to be on defining what the Golden Triangle business district is and why it matters.
It happens that earlier in the week, while riding the Metro I saw a well-designed shopping bag featuring the names of New York City streets and key landmarks/attractions (like the Empire State Building), but I wasn't able to get a photo of it.
This business district needs to do a full-fledged branding and identity exercise producing various elements that collectively reinforce a clear definition for the district, which doesn't currently exist. See "(DC) Neighborhoods and commercial districts as brands."
Ironically I think this is a function of the district's "success" at getting control of the perceptions of an "inner city" district as being dirty and unsafe.
Now that the Golden Triangle BID has successfully moved the district forward, it needs to take identity and branding to the next level.
Some of the collateral items could include:
- street sign toppers
- banners but with different imagery (e.g. map + street names + images of landmarks)
- maps in bus shelters which exist already, but better supporting a common visual identity and brand
- shopping bags
But these are merely "delivery vehicles" as part of an integrated and comprehensive branding, promotion, and identity system."
I've been meaning to work up a post on neighborhood-commercial district focused digital kiosks at Metro stations, modeled after the kiosks in use in the NYC Subway system, but with a major focus on the local offer and intra-district events. That could be an element as well. The problem with the NYC kiosks is that they don't do much other than show subway maps and ads. There is great potential for the delivery of sub-city information.
A street sign topper with the designation of the Queen West Art & Design District in Toronto. (Photo by Erkin Ozberk.)
A shopping bag with street names. (The NYC imprinted bag I saw was much more visually exciting.)
A shopping bag showing a city skyline.
Adams-Morgan has "funner" maps in bus shelters than Golden Triangle.
Golden Triangle bus shelter map.