Does Branding Play a Role in Redevelopment?

One Denver neighborhood’s massive redevelopment project includes a branding element. Is it necessary?

2 minute read

September 21, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Google street view of two-story brick and stucco apartment building in Sun Valley neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.

An apartment building in Sun Valley, Denver. | Google Maps / Sun Valley, Denver

Place branding, while controversial, is nothing new. Cities and neighborhoods frequently employ branding and marketing strategies to stimulate their economy, attract visitors and businesses, and generally boost their profile. Writing in Fast Company, Elissaveta M. Brandon describes the rebranding process occurring in one Denver neighborhood, questioning the utility of the project.

Denver’s Sun Valley, a formerly industrial zone, declined as the are was increasingly cut off from the rest of the city by railroads and freeways. “In 2010, about 27 homes remained, and five of them were vacant. Nearly 80% of Sun Valley residents lived below the poverty line.” Then, the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) “set out to redevelop the neighborhood by demolishing the almost hundred-year-old housing projects, building new subsidized and free-market housing units, and investing in a public park, a community garden, a community-operated supermarket, a job training center—and a visual identity for the renewed neighborhood.”

But the project came at a cost, which included displacing the 1,000 residents who lived in the apartments slated for demolition. As of May of this year, only 20 percent of former residents have returned to the neighborhood. “The residents have gained better housing and better public amenities, but according to Collective Colorado, they have lost the tight-knit community they had built.”

As for the branding aspect, the vision created by design firm Wunder Werkz, inspired by the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, is still a work in progress. “Wunder Werkz has essentially created an easy-to-use, flexible kit of parts with a clear hierarchy and set of rules that the community can reference and use when construction is complete, or whenever they need it.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 in Fast Company

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