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Midtown of Manhattan, New York? No, Midtown of Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury, London. Even a born-and-bred Londoner is unlikely to know of Midtown but the recent rebranding revolution of the area between The City and the West End is making a name for itself.
Having been labelled ‘boring’ and a ‘transport corridor’ between London’s two major business hubs, a campaign named ‘inmidtown’ has sought to create a new Business Improvement District (BID) to attract more tourists and businesses to the area.
The ‘inmidtown’ website (www.inmidtown.org) describes the rebranding process as an attempt to ‘foster a quality environment for those who work, live and do business, as well as to show the world what a vibrant area it is to visit’. The name has often been used by estate agents and property developers but can a name really alter the prosperity and character of an urban area?
The campaign has faced opposition from many members of the public who feel it to be another introduction of an ‘americanism’ and an infringement on their sense of identity and community. Local officials face a challenging balancing act between preserving the traditional aspects of the London area while also trying to improve the population’s quality of life through economic growth. Whichever decision is taken, it is unlikely to be a popular one – local businesses crave the lucrative potential opportunities that lie in wait while residents would prefer a more habitual stance.
For now though, the distinct orange ‘inmidtown Rangers’ have taken to the streets to offer advice/directions to visitors and ‘inmidtown’ banners are going up around the area encouraging people to vote ‘yes’ to the rebranding change. And as much as some might resent it, local firms and businesses have been donating heavily to the ‘inmidtown’ fund (which is thought to be worth well over £1 million). The Candy brothers’ similar attempt of rebranding Fitzrovia ‘Noho’ (north of Soho) failed to take off, but as momentum continues, it looks like ‘Midtown’ is here to stay.