Flagler Village Residents: Don’t Co-Brand Us With Sistrunk

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Update, November 24 : Robert Larsen took issue with this story, saying that the views of King —  a Flagler Village property owner, but not a resident — do not reflect his own. He says New Times reporting was "irresponsible" and "equated one person's point of view with the entire community." King's opinion, he said, "doesn't reflect what the residents of Flagler Village believe." 

He also took issue with the phrase "in other words" (since stricken below) and says that New Times "put words in [his] mouth."  New Times apologizes for any misunderstanding. 

Larsen wrote in an email, "Our concerns are not about being associated with Sistrunk, as your readers might wrongly discern from your article. I clearly stated our concerns about being lumped into a three-way branding initiative.... Two years ago the Sun Sentinel pulled the race card on us in an article. Get out of your bubble and drive Flagler Village. We have race in this neighborhood. We have homeless. We have drugs and other serious problems, still. Two years ago we were concerned we might deter needed developers by renaming the street."

He said that "one of our initiatives in 2016 is to improve relations with Historic Sistrunk and reach out to them to see how we can help them achieve their goals."  He also explained: "Historic Sistrunk and Flagler Village are both downtown and are in the CRA and we have very different zoning laws, master plans and visions for our future. Flagler Village is a high density neighborhood, something that Historic Sistrunk does not want as they prefer to preserve their neighborhood character, similar to other neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale. We attract different types of developers, residents and we have different needs, which includes different branding needs. Again, your reporting is sloppy and irresponsible." 

Original story, November 23: 
For ten months, the Mosaic Group — a  marketing agency based in Boca Raton — has been conducting research and focus groups for the City of Fort Lauderdale, which is trying to market Flagler Village together with two neighborhoods that border it: Progresso and Sistrunk. But at the November 3 commissioner meeting, Robert Larsen, president of the Flagler Village Civic Association, said Flagler Village wants to opt out.

“I don’t have a problem with the brand but that there is a three-in-one branding initiative,” Larsen said. “We feel as though we are a different demographic with different needs and are in a different stage of development.”

In other words, the areas around Sistrunk Boulevard, which was named after pioneering black physician James Sistrunk, are historically black and suffer from high crime rates. Flagler Village is made up of many new apartment buildings that draw young professionals.

Charlie King, a realtor who owns two townhomes in Flagler Village, has said in the past that “Sistrunk Boulevard” makes people think about crime and drugs. Branding the neighborhoods together “will bring a negative brand to Flagler Village,” King tells New Times.

The conflict comes just two years after the Flagler Village Civic Association opposed renaming part of Sixth Street that extends into Flagler Village after Sistrunk. The effort passed despite neighborhood resistance.

Larsen argued that Flagler Village has spent the past decade developing its brand — an initiative he estimates cost more than $100,000. “We prefer not to have a third party, not of our choosing, promoting our neighborhood,” Larsen said. “We’d like to do that ourselves.”

King stressed that funds allocated to marketing the three neighborhoods should instead be directed at increasing density and improving public transportation.

“When they’re done with the brand, I have a feeling I’m not going to like it and Flagler Village isn’t going to like it,” King said. “You need to build in Flagler Village and expand, not Sistrunk going west to east. This money is being wasted.”

Ann Marie Sorrel, CEO of the Mosaic Group, says her group is working to bring jobs and businesses to the entire area. The plan, she says, is not to create a single brand for three distinct neighborhoods but to market the uniqueness of each.

“Let’s think of Nike as the brand,” Sorrel suggests. “Flagler Village, Progresso, and Historic Sistrunk are Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Lebron James. No one is losing their identity, but we’re creating an overall destination for the entire area.”

Sorrel was not able to unveil the complete branding plan until she could present it to the Northwest-Progresso-Flagler Heights Community Redevelopment Agency. If the CRA approves, the plan could be presented to commissioners for a vote as early as December. She did reveal, however, that her team suggests branding the northwest community as “Historic Sistrunk.”

“It’s really exciting for the northwest,” she says. “They’ll have a website that will list meetings and events and have an identity and signage throughout the neighborhood. It’s very positive.”

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