Branding Rough Neighborhoods

In our newsletter for members just out, it was noted in an essay about Parkway related developments that: “Within the marketing narrative for these developments lies the imperative to embrace reality before the reality engulfs the vision in not trying to paint a picture so rosy that native Sacramentans and even newcomers, soon realize is only that, marketing.”

Many areas surrounding the Parkway are slowly being developed, including downtown, but if the marketing for them is done without a nod to reality, it won’t work.

This editorial in the Sacramento Bee makes an excellent point along those lines.

An excerpt.

“It’s not going to be downtown Sacramento’s official new marketing slogan, but it does have a certain ring to it – “slummy but sexy.”

“It definitely caught my ear at the 15th annual State of Downtown event on Tuesday. In its own way, the motto does describe the mixed bag of problems and potential downtown.

“There are still too many vacant storefronts and trashy lots, but K Street between 10th and 13th is fully leased, 26 new businesses opened last year, and more than 230 residential units were added, according to the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

“There isn’t enough unique retail to make downtown a must-see shopping and nightlife destination, but there’s hope from the purchase of struggling Downtown Plaza by JMA Ventures.

“There have been some high-profile shootings, including the one on New Year’s Eve, and there are continuing concerns about street crime. Yet attendance at public events – concerts, farmers markets and the like – surged from 491,500 in 2011 to 705,500 in 2012.

“At Tuesday’s event, downtown partnership Executive Director Michael Ault accentuated the positive. But he also urged the city’s new police chief to focus on public safety in the urban core.

“If people don’t feel secure, all the efforts to enliven downtown won’t amount to much. Visitors and residents will be scared off, as will business owners willing to take a risk.

“One of those newer entrepreneurs is Carina Lampkin, executive chef and owner of Blackbird Kitchen + Bar, a seafood restaurant/oyster bar that opened last April near Ninth and J streets and was up for the partnership’s Vibe Award for visionary innovators (won by Sid Garcia-Herberger of Crest Theatre fame).

“In her nomination video, Lampkin was talking about what drew her from San Francisco to Sacramento when she said downtown is “kinda slummy but sexy, all at the same time.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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