How much does a neighborhood name matter? What happens when the Business Improvement District and long-time residents differ on what the name should be?
While established DC neighborhoods like Georgetown have held onto their name for decades, newly popularized neighborhoods are often torn between several names before one takes root. NoMa was once called Swampoodle, and the area south of Bloomingdale is simultaneously called Truxton Circle, the Bates Area and East Shaw.
Often, those with an interest in branding a neighborhood to make it appealing to investors and developers have a different name in mind than long-time residents.
These days, one of the most rapidly developing areas in town is the section of Southeast to the south of Capitol Hill and north of the Anacostia River (map). The local Metro station is dubbed Navy Yard-Ballpark due to the notable landmarks, and Navy Yard, Ballpark and Near Southeast all seem to be used with some frequency.
But the names don’t stop there: the neighborhood Business Improvement District (BID) landed on Capitol Riverfront as a name for the district several years ago, and has been using the moniker whenever possible.
The disputed area. Map courtesy of the Capital Riverfront BID.
Claire Schaefer Oleksiak, the outgoing Executive Director of the Capitol Riverfront BID, believes that it suits the area. “The name was selected to geographically locate the neighborhood—south of the Capitol Building and north of the Anacostia River,” Oleksiak told UrbanTurf.
However, residents are less-than-enthusiastic about the name. “I don’t generally use Capitol Riverfront because there are several quadrants with river frontage in DC and there seems to be confusion whether Capitol Riverfront means SE or SW or both,” said resident Meredith Henne Baker, who uses both Navy Yard and “by the Nationals Stadium” for the area. (She is also pushing for Natstown).
ANC 6D Commissioner David Garber tells us that this is true of most residents. “In Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront, all of the official branding for the neighborhood uses the Capitol Riverfront BID corporate brand, whereas — at least in my experience — most people who live and work in the neighborhood call it Navy Yard.”
With Nationals Park, Yards Park and Canal Park, the area is quickly becoming a draw for folks from throughout the District. Will Navy Yard win out as the accepted name? Resident Paul LeBlanc hopes so.
“Historically and aesthetically, I think Navy Yard suits the area best,” LeBlanc said. “Many new buildings have adopted the industrial Navy Yard look, and the Navy Yard still remains and is a very good neighbor, especially in terms of architecture.”
Garber agrees. “The Navy Yard as an institution has been around since 1799. For me, the Navy Yard is a geographical marker I’m more satisfied using to define the neighborhood than something created by committee in the last few years to help lease office space.”
Still, the BID is hoping that Capitol Riverfront sticks.
“I think that having Capitol Riverfront listed as part of the Metro name will be important to solidify the branding for the neighborhood.” Oleksiak said. “It will be an evolution and I look forward to seeing what we call the neighborhood ten and fifteen years from now.”
This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/whats_in_a_name_capitol_riverfront_or_navy_yard/7345.
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