It was 2015 when the South East Chicago Commission (SECC) approached Otherwise Incorporated to build a strategy for Hyde Park’s commercial district as an entity — and through that collaboration, the Downtown Hyde Park brand was born. Six years later, [Otherwise] caught up with Diane Burnham, Executive Director of SECC, to discuss the brand’s evolution, and the thoughtful balance being struck between branding a commercial district and serving a whole neighborhood.
SSA #61 Builds a Brand Identity
For starters, it’s important to distinguish the layers of involvement here. The SECC is a community-driven non-profit organization focused on enhancing the quality of life in five neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side (Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, Washington Park, and Woodlawn).
In 2014, the SECC was awarded Service Provider oversight of the Special Service Area (SSA) #61 Hyde Park. City of Chicago SSAs, also known as Business Improvement Districts or BIDS, are local tax districts that fund expanded services and programs through a localized property tax levy within contiguous areas — in the case of SSA #61, this area is the 53rd and 55th Street corridors connected by Lake Park Avenue.
SSA #61’s services include beautification and maintenance, business district capacity building, economic development and district marketing. When the SSA wanted a brand identity strategy, Otherwise was called upon for its expertise.
“The separation [between SSA #61 and Downtown Hyde Park] is important, because one of our challenges has been getting people to understand the connection between the two,” explains Burnham. “Downtown Hyde Park is a marketing and branding opportunity to drive investment, but the SSA is the core behind it. The SSA does the work; Downtown Hyde Park is the brand that brings people to the place.”