An intriguing article yesterday on The Atlantic Cities blog explored the sometimes difficult process of cementing a city’s identity through the naming of its neighborhoods. For example, residents of Indianapolis don’t have a strong grasp on their neighborhood boundaries due to the consolidation of city and county governments decades ago. At the other extreme, San Francisco and New York are notorious for creating unofficial microhoods.
I won’t deny real estate types have had a large part in fostering the confusion. We like naming things.
Here in Atlanta we have an official, city-sanctioned map on which to fall back. It was first created in 1974 with the launch of our NPU system, and it’s been changed around a few times since then. Within each NPU the boundaries of the city’s neighborhoods are clearly delineated, but unfortunately not everyone puts the maps to good use.
Witness the phenomenon of real estate listings that describe homes on Flagler Avenue in Piedmont Heights as having a more prestigious Ansley Park address. Poncey Highland has only recently solidified its cool factor to the extent that its homes aren’t marketed as being in nearby Virginia Highland.
The power of trendy neighborhood names has been seen as a tool to entice developers. Not too long ago the area south of North Avenue and above the Connector was rebranded “SONO” in an effort to give the grey area a stronger identity. Signs proclaim the area’s new name, but I’ve yet to come by more than a handful of Atlantans willing to use the title.
Similarly, the downtrodden district surrounding the Garnett MARTA Station in south downtown was branded the “Railroad District” as an ode to the neighborhood’s industrial origins. I prefer SoMar (south of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive), which also happens to be the name of one of the only residential buildings in that area.
In some ways a neighborhood’s title can serve as its training wheels. The über-trendy neighborhood along Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street was branded “West Midtown” to the consternation of many in actual Midtown, which has its western boundary at the Connector. I’d say the neighborhood is now strong enough to stand on its own two feet; let’s just call it the Westside.
What do you think? Are there any neighborhood names that grind your gears, or do you have an idea for a yet-to-be-named district that could be the next real estate wunderkid?