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Branding Fail?

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: December 20, 2013
ODOT's original plan to build new elevated boulevard from Western Avenue to just short of Walker Avenue.
ODOT's original plan to build new elevated boulevard from Western Avenue to just short of Walker Avenue.

Way, way back in 2011, back when Mayor Mick Cornett presided over what was then a fairly peaceful, compliant city council, he succeeded in convincing council members that they didn’t need to survey the public, they didn’t need to hire a consultant or solicit ideas for naming the new downtown boulevard that would eventually replace the old alignment of Interstate 40.
Cornett insisted the road be named “Oklahoma City Boulevard.”
I questioned Cornett at the time, and he felt quite comfortable insisting he had a command on all matters involving city branding.
Here’s what I blogged at the time:
Mayor Mick Cornett was questioned today about the origin of “Oklahoma City Boulevard” as the name for the road that will replace the current alignment of I-40 south of downtown. His response? He has a lot of experience on branding, he says, and he arrived at the name out of years of experience and expertise on branding and observing that the city doesn’t do a great job at branding itself.

I didn’t encounter a single reader of OKC Central who liked the name. The one council member who voted against the name, Pat Ryan, called the name too long, but acknowledged he was not a “branding expert.” But a respected local graphic designer and marketing expert, Brian Winkeler, was also far less keen on “Oklahoma City Boulevard.”
“We’re better than ‘Oklahoma City Boulevard,’” Winkeler said. “We’re cooler than ‘Oklahoma City Boulevard.’ We are in the midst of a creative and cultural renaissance most of us would’ve never thought possible 20 years ago. Amazing things are happening here and, if Core to Shore does come together as promised and envisioned, it will be another amazing thing we can show off to the world.”
The mayor had a couple of set-backs after this triumph.

The design of the boulevard itself came under intense criticism as residents came to realize that much of the new boulevard was being rebuilt as the same development killing elevated road. Engineers at first insisted the design couldn’t be reopened. But the city council was no longer staying so quiet. Meg Salyer, Ed Shadid and others began to speak out against the design, a grass roots protest emerged, and as federal highway officials took note of the complaints, engineers were suddenly far more willing to reconsider their plans.

Those alternatives are still under review. And the boulevard that was supposed to be completed by 2014? Nope. Only the western most portion was able to start up – but that section is now open.I post the following photo without comment:

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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