Monday, March 22, 2010
One thing that has always bothered me about large-scale urban developments is the renaming aka rebranding of areas as if by Mickey's magic wand from Fantasia. Areas can't be named by marketese through exhaustive, expensive, (and useless) branding exercises without sounding overly generic, undermining its ability to catch on by achieving ownership of the name by the locals.
Some that have proven successful are often broad, encompassing and either tied to its place geographically (various uptowns, midtowns, etc.) or historically (ie meatpacking districts, etc). In that way, they contribute immediately to the sense of place and the viral nature of the conceptualization of a place within the hive mind of the populace. The culture immediately adopts it as something that makes sense and is attributable to the location and character of the place.
A school of thought exists that artists make the best pioneers into new areas. They are flexible with their needs and are looking for cheap space to colonize and work with and be around other creative types. By moving in and fixing up the rundown, they qualitatively improve an area enough to make it register as a target for possible investment area for developers, and further qualitative improvement.
Those creatives who have since colonized Bishop Arts, making it a location safe for more buttoned-up, risk averse, professional types to invest in homes in areas with unique character, have since moved Westward apparently deeming Bishop Arts too passe now that the yuppies have graduated from uptown/West Village. This new emerging area is deemed by the locals as "X-Plus" or X+ for short.
Bottom-up naming and "place" creation like this has cache. It sticks.
Creatives are the worker bees in search of new honey patches for the colony. Some areas have better honey, better bones for long-term resilience, or neighborhood vitality.
From an urban form standpoint, X+ has many things working in its favor: decent nearby housing stock, interesting historic buildings worthy of stewardship and rebirth, and most critically convergence. The convergent form in this case is even the promethean force in the naming of the very place.
Less importantly, it has two things that are outcomes moreso than they are causes - new streetcar and an overall rezoning plan, but will nevertheless help to participate in the gentrification process inherent and inescapable as all places evolve from urban frontier to vibrant, funky and unique locales into staid, yuppie enclaves.
Don't fight it. Work with it. Nurture it and help shape it. The ever-migrating process is the revitalization of your City.