Flickr user el.pelon
Uptown Beaufort is open for business
You might remember that a few weeks ago we told you about a new push to create an 'Uptown' district in Beaufort.
The term has been floated for some time, but there is no such official area in Beaufort. In popular dogma, at its max the term covers Bellamy Curve to the Ribaut Road-Boundary Street intersection — though just as people debate the boundaries of the Lowcountry they'll surely debate the boundaries of the Uptown district as well.
Most recently the term has resurged on a Facebook page that seeks to represent the district.
And that was an impetuous for us to talk to a couple of businesses that are considered part of that district about their feelings on being part of a formal district.
A quick aside
Before I get into the email conversation between TheDigitel and one of the Uptown businesses, I want to take on the parking issue.
While downtown is struggling with well-documented parking issues, the argument of parking seems to have erroneously made its way into the Uptown debate. Uptown certainly doesn't have the meter bandit issue that downtown does, but it's no parking paradise either.
Case: The Facebook page mentioned above says: "every business has free parking" and that the district has "more than enough parking for everyone."
While there are a number of curb-style unmetered parking spots on public right of way, the truth of the matter is that Uptown doesn't have all of the parking you think it does.
Shop A won't want you parking at its shop so that you can then do your shopping at Shop B and then eat at Business C. Shop A wants that no more than Business C; they don't want you monopolizing parking in front of its business for two hours. Those spaces are reserved for their customers, as they should be.
But this is more of a urban planning issue than it is a marketing/destination issue, which is what I really want to address.
Back to the matter at hand
We asked, and had, an interesting back-and-forth with an Uptown biz and got their thoughts on the need for a second branding of a Beaufort shopping destination to complement the Main Street effort.
"The tendency in our culture over the last few decades has been a move away from cooperative, collaborative effort for the larger good and toward a splintering of large groups into smaller groups of specialized interests," the business said. "I see a narrow focus of marketing and promotional efforts on the Downtown area (Bay Street plus one or two surrounding blocks). That's where visitors naturally want to go first - and maybe second, and maybe even on their third visit. But then what, and where?"
"Why, people ask, are these 'Uptown' merchants making noise about forming their own community separate from Downtown?"
It seems that Uptown is once again becoming a collective with a strong enough draw, density, and identity to feel its worthy of multi-shop visits -- and that this identity is not being carried to the public and tourist communities by the established marketing groups - at least not in a manner that is satisfactory to those in the Uptown sphere.
Which leaves us with a call to action, voiced by the same unnamed biz: "Include the Uptown area, promote it, make it a visible part of our City, show it off advantageously, encourage and support Uptown merchants and businesses, slow down the traffic, bring the Farmer's Market back to the park in Pigeon Point, turn the "Uptown Movement" from a splinter group into an integral part of the City community."