Hmm, I found curious the idea that Walnut Creek has a geographical boundary between north and south, likened by a branding expert to the symbolic boundary associated with America’s North versus South struggle over slavery.
This branding expert, Roger Brooks, calls Mt. Diablo Boulevard our Mason-Dixon line, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times. Brooks was hired by Downtown Business Association to help the city come up with a brand name for its downtown, and he offered his interesting suggestions to a group a city and business leaders this past week.
He spent three days in Walnut Creek, talked to lots of people, and noticed the split between downtown’s updated Broadway Plaza and other shops to the south of our “Mason-Dixon” line, and “the hodgepodge of older businesses and ‘ethnic’ restaurants to the north.”
In Brooks’ mind, “a fractured downtown can’t thrive, much less bill itself a regional retail destination,” the Times reports.
I don’t know that Walnut Creek can’t bill itself as a regional retail destination. Isn’t it already? (Whether some of us like that or not) It is llisted No. 11 on a summer 2009 Grubb and Ellis survey of premier urban space, behind New York City’s Fifth Avenue, San Francisco’s Union Square, Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, Miami’s South Beach, and San Jose’s Westfield Mall. It’s been on the top of this survey for a few years now. Of course, that survey is based on rental rates per square foot, and we hear about how high rental rates might be driving out smaller locally owned businesses, leading to the number of empty store fronts we’re seeing on both sides of our Mason-Dixon line.
I agree with Brooks that the business association should ditch its “Escape the Ordinary” slogan. We all know that there is quite a bit about our downtown that, with our Starbucks and other chain coffee and retail stores, is, frankly, ordinary.
Instead, he says, Walnut Creek should focus on the unique experience that it can offer.
Any thoughts on what that could be?
Brooks also said that with our Mason-Dixon line we accept the idea that we have two distinct downtown districts. His working title for the South, "Plaza District," makes sense to me.
But, as with the Mason-Dixon label, is Brooks pushing things a bit with his working title for the North? He threw out the idea of calling it our “International District” because it is home to many restaurants.
According to the Times, Brooks said: “Banners and maps should illustrate to visitors how all of downtown is Walnut Creek, but that one district is a culinary hot spot and the other highlighted by glitzy shopping."