Monday, April 09, 2012

In This Months Business Monthly

Returning to Columbia from DC on Route 29 last weekend, I took note of the highway sign just before the Broken Land Parkway exit. It read "Columbia Town Center."

That won’t sit well with some folks.

I suspect that the nascent Downtown Columbia Partnership will soon lobby for a sign change. They prefer calling the redevelopment area “Downtown Columbia.” Last month, when Ken Ulman tapped Mark Thompson to lead the redevelopment process in Columbia's urban core, the flag he stuck in the ground said “downtown,” not “town center.”

Town Center is out. Downtown is in. Howard Hughes has already rebranded their Columbia website.

So what’s in a name?

It depends on your perspective. For me downtown conjures up major league stadiums, buildings over fourteen stories tall, Chinatown, Little Italy and a certain amount of chaos. Town Center, on the other hand brings to mind open space, tree lined streets with wide sidewalks, convenient parking and relative safety.

The "downtowners" see this differently. In this post on HoCo Rising, Tom Coale notes the current high office vacancy rate around The Mall as evidence of a perception problem. He wonders what Don Draper, from the TV series Mad Men, would do with this.

“I bet one of the first things he would say to all of us in Columbia is "Stop calling the center of Columbia 'Town Center.'  It's 'Downtown.'  You want people to imagine bustling streets, foot traffic, heck, maybe even hot dog carts.  'Town Center' sounds like some bullseye serving no other purpose than providing a geographic reference point.  'Downtown' sounds like a place of arrival."

So there you have it. You can find this months column here.
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