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City settles on ‘Historic Downtown,' 'Historic North End'
What's in a name? Officials, merchants and community members have recently been debating whether the name of Yuma's downtown area should describe it or point out its location.
The debate has been settled, at least for the time being. City officials have decided to go with a combination that they hope makes most people happy.
“We are going to use Historic Downtown in the Historic North End,” city administrator Greg Wilkinson said in a recent email to the Yuma Sun.
“Should work for everyone. If you are referring to anything happening in the north side of the city, you can use Historic North End, and if there is anything on Main Street, you can use Historic Downtown.”
The general downtown area, from Giss Parkway, including the area north of 1st Street and the riverfront, will now be called Historic North End, according to Dave Nash, public affairs coordinator for the city of Yuma.
“That's the name we will be using going forward,” Nash said.
The area that includes Main Street and the two streets that flank it, Madison Avenue and Maiden Lane, is to be called Historic Downtown, Nash said.
Members of a panel formed to advise the city on the draft Historic North End Corridor Plan, which provides incentives to stimulate growth and revitalize Main Street and the surrounding area, felt the city should pick a consistent marketable name.
“Many names and descriptions are used for the area. Lack of a consistent name is a major obstacle in marketing the Corridor Plan's economic incentives — or tourism, retail or anything else,” wrote panel member Colby Girard in an August letter to the mayor and city council.
Girard urged the city to use Historic North End or the shorter version North End, noting that it would attract more “professional/managerial types and young adults” who traditionally “spend much money on entertainment, dining and arts and culture.”
He discarded other popular names, such as Main Street, saying that it's specific to one street; Yuma Crossing Area, because he believes it would confuse people; and Yuma Heritage Area because it is used to refer to a larger development area outside the area.
He described other popular combinations,“Old Town, Old Downtown, Old Yuma and Historic Downtown Yuma, as “very general and nonspecific.”
“‘Historic' is not a name, it's a description,” Girard said in a telephone interview. He believes young people will translate “historic” to “old,” “for snowbirds” and “not for me.”
Girard also rejected Historic Downtown and Old Town. He pointed out that “downtown” refers to many areas and that the word “old” presents marketing challenges.
“It's acceptable for a fully developed historic district (like Old Town San Diego) but has negative baggage for an area on the way up, like ours,” Girard wrote in the letter.
On the other hand, he said, North End is already “used widely now. It doesn't refer to any specific site within the area. It's somewhat general but doesn't have possible negative connotations. It's unlikely to be confused with another area. North End has a direct marketing advantage — the location is in the name.”
He said many advisory panel members felt strongly that North End should include “historic.”
“The area's history will always remain its central characteristic. Right now, it's the major draw for the area that drives business. Also, ‘historic' has more positive connotations than ‘old',” Girard said.
He suggests the tourist industry could use the full Historic North End and nightclubs and pizzerias could more effectively draw clients with the simpler North End.
However, not all merchants are embracing the name.
“I certainly don't want it. All the merchants are against it,” said Chet Lane, who owns several downtown buildings.
He thinks the area should be marketed as “historic” because that is what attracts people to downtown.
“If you're traveling and you see the name North End or South End, will you stop there? Would you stop at Old Town San Diego if it was called East Side? My point is, (Girard) says historic is old and boring, but that's what I look for when I travel. We need to keep it, advertise it and market the area as a historic area.”
“It's crazy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” Lane added.
Girard noted that the name isn't new. “It's not a name change. The name is already there. It's been the name for years and businesses there have already been using it.
“It's important that it's already in use, it's simply the best option. It's a strong name, it's a simple name, it's a destination,” he said.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856.