What's in a name? A lot, if you don't much care for 'downtown'
By Susan Stabley
Anyone tracking Miami's urban core is aware that work is under way to revitalize downtown. But some also want to repair its brand name.
The word "downtown" hurts the city, according to some.
"It doesn't do us any favors," said Gil Katzman, a member of Miami's Downtown Hotel Task Force and director of marketing for InterContinental Hotel.
"We are always referred to just as the downtown," said Jim McMichael, marketing director at Bayside Marketplace. "Downtown, in a lot of people's minds, means something that's not necessarily what we are."
And not many people call it the Magic City.
"No, they don't, not for a long, long time," said Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton, who represents downtown.
Mr. Katzman said he is pushing to leave behind any perception that Miami is a "big concrete and asphalt city." After all, he said, tropical Miami is on beautiful Biscayne Bay.
"So the thought was to change how we call ourselves," he said.
Mr. Katzman said he discovered another group of downtowners looking to find the right name for Miami's waterfront. The group meets every few months and includes Mr. McMichael and representatives of Bayfront Park Management Trust, the Miami Children's Museum and Parrot Jungle Island among others, said Timothy Schmand, executive director of the park trust.
The group - a united front supporting downtown but sometimes competitors in attracting visitors' dollars - works for "common interests," he said.
Mr. McMichael said the group has been kicking around five or six names including Miami Harbor District, Harborside and Center Bay.
Something like Harborside would be a "sexy name to call this area," said Mr. Katzman. "I would love it - anything that avoids 'downtown.'
Mr. McMichael said he favors something that echoes the Design District with the strength of the South Beach brand.
"We are exploring different ideas - not only a name but also what that name would mean," he said.
So far, one name has stood out.
"Miami Harbor District seems to the one that stuck," said Mr. Schmand.
Commissioner Winton said he's not pushing any particular name. "I leave that in the hands of the creative folks."
Miami hasn't been branded yet, said Debbie Spiegelman, executive director of the Miami Children's Museum. Her non-profit institution opened less than six months ago and has been focused on establishing itself - first on Watson Island then as part of the Miami revitalization.
Bringing in families to spend many days visiting multiple attractions downtown is part of the transformation, said Mr. Schmand, as well as capitalizing on cruise-ship travelers and a growing number of residents. The goal is to have several elements in place in time for the 2007 Super Bowl, which is expected to bring in large numbers of media and visitors, he said. Other projects that tie in are the creation of a bay walk from Margaret Pace Park to the mouth of the Miami River, water taxis and increased usage of Bayfront and Bicentennial parks.
"For years, we have been looking upland from the waterfront," said Mr. Schmand. "If you stand and look out into the bay, there is opportunity we have been missing."