City Beat

City Beat: Where am I? Neighborhood branding campaigns create places nobody recognizes

Lance Washington has seen a lot of changes in Oak Park in the decade he’s been cutting hair there. Lately, he thinks those changes have been pretty good.

But like most of his neighbors, Washington didn’t realize Oak Park had been given a new name.

A marketing campaign is trying to rebrand the commercial corridor along Broadway into the Triangle District. It’s apparently a reference to the area’s triangle-shaped street formation. There are banners hanging on poles all over the place promoting the new label.

Washington’s shop, Ace of Fades, is on Broadway, and he doesn’t particularly mind the campaign. Just as long as the past isn’t ignored in the name of advertising.

“Oak Park’s been around so long, you can’t take that history,” he said as the midday rush filled his shop with music and laughter. “That’s personal. That’s family.”

The local business group came up with the Triangle – and its slogan, “Off the Grid” – to lure visitors. Next week, they’ll host a monthly “gather” at Third Avenue and Broadway, with food and live music. The July event drew 1,100 people.

“We are Oak Park, and it was never to say that we’re not part of it,” Terrence Johnson, head of the business association, said.

Still, it’s hard finding many people who call the area the Triangle. Just as few people – outside of marketing folks and restaurant owners – can point to the Handle District on a map of midtown. A push to rebrand K Street “The Kay” hasn’t caught on, either.

Thomas Dodson lives in midtown, near The Handle – around 18th and Capitol – and The Sutter District – near 28th and J. He runs Selvage Media, a social media company that does a lot of marketing and branding work.

He also happens to think this wave of neighborhood branding is a bunch of hooey.

“You start slicing and dicing like that, and you take away from the whole,” he said.

Hand me a scalpel. I’m joining the fun.

Henceforth, I shall call the Curtis Park Railyard the Chrome Pony, after the chrome statues the developer of the area adores so much. The Downtown Plaza and bordering K Street – site of the planned arena and lots of future development – will be Sub City (Subsidy, if you’re saying it out loud).

They hold lots of parties and rallies on the parched grass along Capitol Mall and in front of the Capitol. Let’s call that Brownsville, named for both the color of the grass and for the guy named Jerry who told us to stop watering those lawns.

The bars and restaurants near the Capitol will be the Tap District. That’s Tap as in kegs, not wire. Actually, wire works, too.

Sacramento has 128 neighborhoods. Maybe there’s room for more in a city that is always evolving.

Or maybe we’ll end up with a bunch of places we no longer recognize.

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