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David Stanowski
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The Strand
Historic District
by David Stanowski
02 January 2009

With any luck, Galveston's downtown shopping and entertainment district will be getting new signage, billboards, and an advertising campaign, in a few months, to help it recover from Hurricane Ike. However, before these projects can proceed, we must settle the question of what to call the district.

Marque Street:
Some cities are blessed with a premiere street that defines their shopping and entertainment district. In Chicago, it's Michigan Avenue (The Magnificent Mile); in Beverly Hills, it's Rodeo Drive; in Palm Beach, it's Worth Avenue; in Charleston, it's King Street; and in Galveston, it's The Strand.

In each of these cities, it is the custom of many of the residents and visitors to refer to the district by the name of the marque street that defines the area. They say, "let's go to King Street", when they really mean the whole area around King Street itself.

Businesses located on the marque street have a distinct advantage, because it is the center of activity, which means they usually pay higher rents, but those on the cross streets, and a few blocks away, still derive a great deal of benefit from the cache of being associated with the well-known artery. Those not on the main street, often have less business activity, but enjoy lower rents, so the arrangement works well for everyone!

The Strand Merchants Association believes that Galveston should follow the lead of the cities that successfully use the name of their marque street to refer to their shopping and entertainment district, by calling our downtown shopping and entertainment district "The Strand". However, the SMA is well aware of the fact that some people, primarily merchants and residents on Postoffice, do not like this idea. Apparently, they don't feel that name is inclusive of their part of the downtown area.

The area bounded by Harborside, Ship's Mechanic, 20th Street, and 25th Street was officially designated "The Strand National Historic Landmark District" in 1976. Therefore, a somewhat longer, but more inclusive name for the entire downtown area could be "The Strand Historic District". If necessary, the boundaries of the Historic District could even be expanded all the way to Church Street which would officially include almost everyone in the downtown area.

Why should Galveston settle for a generic and mundane designation for its downtown area by calling it "Downtown Galveston" or "Historic Downtown Galveston" when it has a marque street name that has been well-known for over 150 years? Using The Strand to anchor the larger and more-inclusive "Strand Historic District" is an obvious marketing advantage.

Coca-Cola did not spend 100+ years building their brand name and then decide to advertise their product as "soda" rather than "Coke"; so why should Galveston market its premiere shopping and entertainment district as "downtown" rather than "The Strand" or "The Strand Historic District"?  

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