Re-branding Uptown

The Uptown Association is launching a new campaign to help identify and draw traffic to the area

Where Uptown is depends on who you talk to.

For some, it’s the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street. Others might include Lyn-Lake or the Wedge in their boundaries.

As far as the area’s business organization, the Uptown Association, is concerned, the lines can be a little blurry.

“The problem and the opportunity with branding Uptown is it’s hard to define where Uptown is and I think a lot of the time people have been focusing more on where Uptown is versus what Uptown is,” said Uptown Association President Thatcher Imboden. “So I think this campaign is going to be more about what it is than where it is.”

The campaign is a recently launched effort to re-brand the ever-evolving Uptown area, which has faced considerable retail turnover and development during the past few years, particularly at Calhoun Square. The hope is that a fresh, user-friendly, interactive website; new brochures, fliers, and e-newsletters; continued community events and a little boasting about the area’s myriad amenities will go far in attracting people to the area.    

“In this kind of economy and the amount of time we’ve gone since we’ve done a branding change, it’s time to address it,” Imboden said. “We’ve heard from our retail members that Uptown desperately needs to be marketed.”

Focused primarily on running the annual Uptown Art Fair until a few years ago, the Uptown Association has gradually stepped up efforts to engage area businesses and community members through surveys, newsletters, networking events and other initiatives. It still runs the Art Fair, but the organization has also become Uptown’s loudest cheerleader.

Area business owners such as James Nelson, owner of The Independent in Calhoun Square, have noticed and are on board with the new direction. Nelson said all the development in Uptown over the years and the work that is still ongoing can be difficult for outsiders to track. If they don’t know what’s there, they won’t come, he said.  

“I think it is a little confusing to the outsider, maybe a suburban visitor, to know what’s going on because old standbys have changed or disappeared and they’re not sure what the new stuff is just yet and there’s no good place to get Uptown information necessarily,” Nelson said.

Tracy Holy, a longtime Uptown resident and assistant manager at the Paper Source at 31st Street and Hennepin Avenue, said she’s already noticed more traffic in the area from visitors checking out the progress of Calhoun Square, but she agreed that more aggressive marketing is needed.

“I just hope that their idea of re-branding isn’t re-branding it a suburb, because we want to keep Uptown Uptown,” she said.

Imboden said the campaign focuses on Uptown’s variety — restaurants, lakes, retail, bars and other amenities.

“What we’re trying to do is say, hey, there’s a lot to do in Uptown,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons that people love to be here. Why don’t we build off our strengths?”

Uptown Association Executive Director Maude Lovelle said developing an Uptown marketing strategy has been slow going for the nearly all-volunteer organization, but she thinks it will pay off.

“Not everything is great all the time,” she said. “But we’re certainly moving toward a more positive outlook and a lot of people are working to make that happen all the time.”

The Uptown Association’s new website is up, but it’s still a work in progress. It’s at uptownminneapolis.com.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.