What’s in a Name? South Burlington Identity Project Seeks the Answer

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Thursday May 14, 2015

With ongoing plans for growth and development, South Burlington is poised for change – is changing the city’s name a part of the plan for the future?

Change has been a key ingredient in many of the conversations currently taking place throughout the city, and there is a full agenda of tasks to show for it, including plans for City Center development, visioning efforts for the schools and library, designation of park and green space use, and the airport home demolition project.

But what is the City of South Burlington ultimately known for, how do people perceive it, and what does it aspire to be? The city has hired Arnett Muldrow & Associates, Ltd.--a company based out of Greenville, S.C.--to craft an identity package for the city to help hone in on answers to these questions.

Consultants Tripp and Ben Muldrow visited last week to tour the city, facilitate focus group meetings, conduct a survey, and create initial concepts to further define a branding effort that will give South Burlington an identity to call its own.
“Often times people get confused or concerned when they hear the term ‘community marketing’ and identity because they think that what we’re after is trying to get a whole bunch of tourists or convince a whole bunch of people to move to a place,” said Tripp. “More often than not, what we’re doing is walking a fine balance of crafting a message that builds community pride so that the citizens can clearly articulate to one another what their place is about, and that helps clearly articulate to visitors, investors and neighbors that these are our values, this is what we hold true.”

In addition to last week’s efforts, the consultants facilitated a community identity survey which drew in over 300 responses to date. The survey polls participants on their opinions of surrounding communities, and what aspects they identify with and appreciate about their own community. One question asks if South Burlington is a good name for the community. Another question asks if the city should change its name. Champlain, Vermont was listed several times as an alternate name.

After roundtable discussions with residents, business owners, students, and city and school officials, a review of the survey results thus far show that the community recognizes a range of strengths and weaknesses of the city. Many cited the positive reputation of the schools, and central location as reasons for choosing to live in South Burlington. It was also noted that while residents feel connected to their own neighborhoods, an overarching sense of the community as a whole was lacking.

Some of the identity issues stem from the close proximity and shared name of its well known neighbor, the City of Burlington. An unidentified or blurred line where Burlington ends and South Burlington begins is another cause of confusion.

“The signs hit at the exterior boundaries, but not at the adjoining interior boundaries, so when you leave Burlington, there’s no sign saying that you’re entering South Burlington,” commented Muldrow.

The conflicting name and address of Burlington International Airport creates another blurred line. The airport is located in the City of South Burlington but owned by the City of Burlington; therefore, newcomers often believe they are arriving in Burlington.

“I spoke with Ben [Muldrow] earlier and asked, wouldn’t it be cool if South Burlington put up a sign, as you leave the airport, that says: ‘The City of South Burlington Welcomes You to Vermont’?”

The Presentation
Arnett Muldrow & Associates presented their first round of branding ideas on Thursday, May 7 with a new set of logos, an advertising strategy and a branding statement. The group updated the current municipal logo system and created a collection of new images to represent the emerging plans for a vibrant City Center as well as a “destination logo,” dividing the city into distinctly different yet connected neighborhoods throughout South Burlington. The consultants recommended four districts: The Gateway District (Williston Road), the Ridgeline District (internal roads), City Center District (Dorset Street), and Lakeshore District (Shelburne Road).

In an effort to capitalize on the city’s strengths, a tag line was crafted to help highlight all that is good about the city. “South Burlington: A Different Place, Altogether” was presented as the proposed branding statement.

Arnett Muldrow & Associates will return on June 4 to present their final brand ideas.

“We were really impressed with the quality of the participation to date in this project,” City Manager Kevin Dorn said. “We’re encouraging everyone to take the survey before June. The consultants will be able to use the information as they complete the brand for a big presentation here at City Hall.”

SOURCE:Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent