To the Editor:
I was unsure whether to laugh or cry at the news that the new Special Service Area No. 61 is “working on branding the neighborhood,” and that the South East Chicago Commission has already met with two branding companies “whose names could not be disclosed” (the reason for this secrecy was not clear). I was under the impression that Hyde Park already had a “brand”: we are intellectual, progressive, integrated, independent-minded and just a little edgy in an urban sort of way. I would say that part of Hyde Park’s “brand” is to disdain the very idea that our neighborhood would need branding consultants.
Sadly, the idea of re-branding Hyde Park fits in all too well with the University of Chicago’s apparent agenda to “compete with its peer institutions” through gentrification and the promotion of upscale retail. The university already has a brand as well, and the life of the mind used to play a prominent role in that brand. Brand management is supposed to communicate and safeguard an institution’s core values so that they are not unintentionally diluted. I will be interested to see how any SSA tax dollars spent on branding our neighborhood fit in with my idea of what my neighborhood is all about.