Branding the Commons

June 9, 2015

If you walk north on Foster Street from the center of Durham, NC, you’ll soon pass Durham Central Park, where residents gather every Saturday for the weekly farmers’ market, alongside the food trucks and the skate park and the new playground. Just past that, abutting the park’s property, is a dilapidated, windowless building flanked by signs from a local realty company offering you a chance to “own downtown.”

The signs include stylized architectural drawings of the condos that will soon replace the building and direct you to visit the property’s website, where you can learn how the property is “Close to everything. Far from ordinary” and how, “With a rich blend of history, creativity and innovation that makes [Durham] the perfect place for work and play, you’ll discover why so many of us love just calling it ‘home.’”

You’ll have to scroll past a number of similar invocations of Durham’s name before you come to any details about the condos themselves. The realtor, it seems, is selling a city first and a condo second. Apparently, buying one of the units “represents a prime investment with priceless quality-of-life dividends.” The product earning those dividends is Durham itself; if the “own downtown” tagline is a bit of a marketing exaggeration, it isn’t much of one.

Read the rest at Jacobin.