BLOG: Branding in WeCo

Sean Philip Cotter

So you’ve got a neighborhood. It’s pretty much as it was last year, which was pretty much the same as the one before that, which wasn’t that different than 10 years previous.

But you want to shake things up; you want more going on — more jobs for the people in your neighborhood, and more people coming there from outside of it, spending money and — fingers crossed — not committing a whole lot of crimes.


So, of course, there’s a million and two ideas of how to do or not do that, and I can say pretty confidently that no one of them is a silver bullet. So today we’re going to focus on just one of them: branding.

Our case study is the WeCo neighborhood. WeCo stands for “West of Codorus,” which … it is, so that’s a good step one. The neighborhood is more or less just the first three blocks of West Philadelphia and West Market streets immediately west of the creek.

The neighborhood went and named itself about two years ago in the hopes of giving it a little more perceived prestige and a shared identity, said David Smith, the WeCo chairman.

“Branding ourselves as a district really helped,” said Smith as we sat Friday afternoon in I-ron-ic, his coffee shop/thrift store/art gallery.

Downtown Inc, a quasi-governmental organization that oversees the city’s core district, helped out, and Gavin Advertising, which was moving into the WeCo area at that point a couple of years ago, lent some time and brainstorming power to come up with the name and logo.

And things are going well, Smith said. Moving in since were artsy-type establishments such as his store and The Rooted Artist Collective across the street. There’s The Waterway, New Grounds Coffee Co. and various other storefronts.

It’s also important the neighborhood does its own thing, he said.

“We can’t just drag off the tails of what they’re doing downtown and in Central Market,” he said.

They’re trying to get the word out, now, with events like the “golden ticket” candy bar promotion and the upcoming creekfires.

Golden-ticket candy search kicks off

There’s still a ways to go, he said.

“We have the same problems every neighborhood has,” he said.

This is an appropriate point to take a second for some background about me, your blogger: These days, I’m the York City reporter for the Dispatch, covering city hall and general happenings around town. I’ve lived in the city since I moved to central Pennsylvania three years ago, so, to get cliche with you for a clause or two: I care deeply about the municipality and its residents, and want to see it and them do well.

That brings us to this blog, Developing Story, which — according to my plans right now, at least — will focus on urban planning, redevelopment and what goes into trying to improve quality of life for the city’s residents.

But for a year and a half before I started at this position, which I’ve been at for six months now, I covered crime around York County. So whenever anyone mentions anywhere in either the city or the county, I immediately ask myself: Have I ever covered anyone getting shot there?

To borrow one of our president’s favorite phrases, let me be clear: That’s not the be-all and end-all of how to judge of a neighborhood at all, but, hey, as a somewhat subjective metric, it is, to borrow one of my mom’s favorite phrases, better than a stick in the eye.

So: In WeCo, my litmus test doesn’t end up that badly, in the grand scheme of things: Yeah, I’ve written about at least one shooting there, but not many of them and none — to my recollection — that were fatal. (Here’s a follow-up story about the shooting that I can remember, which happened May 2, 2015, which is a point in time apparently so long ago the story only exists within the newspaper’s non-public archives.)

But I also want to note that two things that pop to mind that I’ve written about recently in WeCo are objectively awesome: The Stick-N-Move Boxing Gym, from which one 11-year-old has qualified for the Junior Olympics national championship, and the York Time Institute, which is one of the few clock-making schools you’ll find anywhere, the owner says.

York City 11-year-old fights toward Junior Olympic nationals

But if you walk around the several-block area, you quickly see Smith’s right — WeCo does have the classic issues that afflict many urban neighborhoods There’s classic urban blight, some of the clearly long-empty storefronts and rundown houses that plague York and many other cities. But there’s also less of it than there was when I first moved into town a few years ago.

Abdinasir Ali calls out to people passing by while helping to promote Fashion Inn, a new clothing shop at 275 W. Market Street in the WeCo area, Friday, May 27, 2016.
John A. Pavoncello photo

And therefore a big key for the area, as Smith said, is to continue to fill in the spaces. He believes the area needs more places open later and more often, and hopefully a few of them would be restaurants.

As I wandered around the WeCo area last Friday, I stopped into a new place: Fashion Inn in the 200 block of West Market Street. It sells a combination of clothes, CDs and other various products. Ahmed Bamba, the guy behind the counter, said it’d just opened up the day before.

“It’s a very good location” with the amount of foot and tire traffic coming through the area, he said. “People come in, look at what’s new.”

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD. Look for his news reporting about York City daily online and in print, and keep an eye out for a new installment of this blog every week, or have Facebook keep an eye out for you: Like the Developing Story page.