Place Branding: What’s It Mean When Identity Gets in the Way?

Dec 30, 2014

A cyclists rides past restaurants and boutique shops on Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Credit Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

In 2011, a group of designers put together a development proposal to make Pittsburgh’s airport more than just a landing pad. The plan included ideas to transform the airport into a larger transport hub that would attract businesses to the vicinity, making for a dense commercial zone.

One of the theoretical models in the proposal included something called New Town, literally a new town that would absorb the people coming to take advantage of all the new businesses and jobs the future growth of the airport would spur.

“The New Town is a public-private undertaking that creates a distinct new place with a well-defined identity,” the plan read.

But isn’t a well-defined identity – whether positive or negative – something that grows and develops organically, something that takes time and a sense of place? Isn’t a well-defined identity the opposite of a New Town?

Maybe. But maybe it just takes some decent branding.

Read a full version of this report at the website of Keystone Crossroads, a new statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities.