Initiative seeks to improve city to attract homebuyers - The Diamondback : Local

Initiative seeks to improve city to attract homebuyers

College Park hopes to see home ownership rate increase, officials say, as student rentals continue climbing

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Posted: Friday, November 9, 2012 12:49 am | Updated: 12:18 am, Mon Nov 12, 2012.

A well-known saying plastered on a sign downtown, marking the city “A Livable Community,” will soon be no more.

Replacing the sign is just one of several initiatives in the works as part of a citywide brand makeover, one which officials hope will make potential residents see College Park as much more than simply “livable.” College Park City Council members hashed out ideas for a new slogan with marketing firm idfive at a work session Wednesday as part of an effort to improve the city’s image to potential homebuyers.

At Wednesday’s meeting, idfive creative director Matt McDermott presented four different logos with slogans to the council and asked for their input in reaching a final decision. Idfive also recently released the results of its crowd-sourcing initiative to poll city residents and reveal what they think of different aspects of the community. The overall effort is intended to attract potential homebuyers to the city to balance out the soaring number of student rentals, according to city economic coordinator Michael Stiefvater.

“The city would like to see the homeownership rate increase,” Stiefvater said. “We want to make sure the College Park name is out there when people are looking to buy a house.”

The four designs attempted to highlight several areas in which the city excels: education, affordable housing and easy access to major cities. McDermott noted more than 80 percent of city residents have attended some college, and one in five has an advanced degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The first option for a new slogan, “A smart place to live,” would emphasize the level of education in the city, McDermott said. The second, “Small city, big possibilities,” presents a more inspirational tone as a way to “bridge where we are with where we plan to be,” he said.

The third choice, “Smart, naturally,” nods at both education and green initiatives, he said. The fourth option simply reads “College Park Maryland,” with the words split across three separate frames.

District 1 Councilman Patrick Wojahn said he preferred “A smart place to live,” because it most succinctly references the city’s location in the center of bustling activity.

“One of the major reasons why we’re a smart place to live is because there are so many things that are accessible around College Park,” Wojahn said. “So many things that people can go to and experience.”

But other city officials, such as District 3 Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich, expressed the need for the slogan to sound aspirational in light of the city’s ambitious goals.

“I think even in 10 years if we achieve a lot of things that we had hoped to achieve, we will still be thinking of future possibilities,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges the firm faced was the overall perception of the city, so designers worked toward creating a slogan that emphasizes its strengths to improve both residents’ and potential homebuyers’ attitudes toward the city, McDermott said.

“I don’t feel like the reality of the situation aligns with how College Park is being viewed right now,” he said. “Particularly in terms of education, particularly in terms of crime.”

Before idfive moves forward with the next step in the marketing campaign, which includes spreading the message across social media, newsletters and brochures, the city must reach a consensus about which slogan it prefers, and may send out a survey to residents to gauge their opinions.

The effort to move past the lackluster “A Livable Community” slogan would undoubtedly make the city more appealing, said junior journalism major Maddie Tallman.

“[The current slogan] makes the city sound like it’s just okay,” Tallman said. “I would like to see a new one.”

And while a new slogan could improve the city’s overall image, sophomore English major Alex Brake said getting long-term residents to actually move to College Park could prove far more difficult.

“I feel like it’d be difficult for a family to settle down in a city full of college kids,” Brake said. “It’s a little bit of a different risk.”

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