Column: A better Hillside, through the magic of marketingOne of my “favorite” recurring recommendations in the city’s innumerable neighborhood revitalization plans is, “Market the neighborhood’s assets better.” So, for the Hillside, here it goes...
By: Michael Kooi, For the Duluth Budgeteer News
One of my “favorite” recurring recommendations in the city’s innumerable neighborhood revitalization plans is, “Market the neighborhood’s assets better.” So here it goes:
My wife and I bought our house in the East Hillside for its lake view, its proximity to Chester Creek Trail, and the fact that you can buy a beer at the trailhead. Since then, we’ve reveled in our neighborhood’s walk-ability, its connectivity via transit, and its wealth of good souls, who continue the Hillside’s legacy of community leadership
in the face of persistent hardships.
Sadly, it seems our singing of such virtues falls largely on deaf ears. The neighborhood simply isn’t attracting enough new homebuyers to stem its slide toward the shabbier side of “shabby chic.” (Note to our neighbors: The latter is what’s going on with all of that ratty burlap strewn across our backyard.)
So perhaps a change of tack and tone is in order. In the grand marketing tradition of turning “challenges” into “assets,” here are my top 10 recommendations for making the Hillside more attractive to skeptical homebuyers:
10. Turn vacant properties into “demolition workshops.” Most of the houses on the Hillside need at least a little work, which can intimidate first-time homebuyers. Why not let them practice on the neighborhood’s glut of condemned houses for free? You could even offer a “U Strip It, U Keep It” promotion. Technically, the practice is illegal, but that hasn’t deterred some of our neighborhood’s more enterprising residents.
9. Provide express access at the Materials Recovery Center. Once new homeowners start tearing up their own homes, the law-abiding owners will likely trek out to the MRC regularly to dispose of their demo waste. Why not build an express lane for target ZIP codes (since they ask you for your ZIP anyway)? We could even create electronic key fobs linked to a credit card account for “wave and go” payment. Imagine the neighborhood pride you’ll feel as you cruise by all the poor slobs stuck behind that one person who always insists on writing a $4 personal check at the gate.
8. Ask Last Chance Liquors to change its name to The Sunshine Bottle Shop.
7. Create a coffee table book of hospital waiting room views. They’re some of the most stunning lake and city views in the neighborhood, but you only get to see them when you’re sick. Since you’ll never have the chance to buy a house with these views, let’s divorce the splendor from the suffering with a gorgeous, free coffee table book to round out the new home. Of course, the back jacket photo would have to feature garbage Dumpsters, loading docks and the smokers who huddle surreptitiously behind them.
6. A year of free parking at UMD. Where do you think you’re going to park in front of your own house?
5. Free gallon of gas from a local service station. Who wouldn’t appreciate a helping hand at the pump? (Restriction: Must be used to mow a vacant lot or derelict neighbor’s yard.)
4. One Free Line-Jump at Uncle Loui’s.
3. Bring back the East Hillside garage arsonist. Have you seen some of these shacks? Sorry, but with a little guidance, this is a win-win.
2. Offer free parkway planter boxes. The local college kids will help you keep them watered — at least on weekends.
And finally, in my very best David Letterman voice, “The number one thing we can do to make the Hillside more attractive to potential homebuyers:”
1. Move it to Hermantown.
Ahh … marketing. Is there anything it can’t do?
Michael Kooi is a freelance writer and resident of Duluth’s East Hillside neighborhood. He writes about Duluth at dulu-sions.areavoices.com.