What’s in a Name?

Redevelopment of Edmonton’s City Centre Airport lands is moving ahead. First was news about the last regularly scheduled flight, which will take place June 30. Now, a survey has been released, asking for input on six potential names for the new community. The names are quickly generating a lot of discussion, and rightfully so. They elicit reactions ranging from ‘meh’ to ‘huh?’, and by and large don’t have any link to the actual site.

Airport Lands
Today: the Edmonton City Centre Airport. Tomorrow: Sol’Town?

Let’s look at the proposed names:

Avia Park – my first guess was that the term ‘Avia’ had some link to aviation and the history of this site. I was sort of right. Avia is a Czech company that manufactured military aircrafts. I don’t see an Edmonton link, though. Most of the information about Avia and aviation I could find had to do with how their aircrafts were favoured by the German Luftwaffe in World War II. I hope I’m missing something, because that’s not the link I imagined.

Wingfield; The Landing – these sound like names created to retain the link to the aviation history. Perfectly inoffensive and uninspiring.

Crossroads – this must be a reference to the central location of the site, though perhaps they’re trying to establish it as the new nexus point of Edmonton’s historically divided north and south sides. Hijinks will surely ensue when the cast of Northsiders visits.

Central Park – parroting a name of a famous site to make your own sound appealing. Wonderful. I like this strategy so much that we should adopt it city-wide and rename everywhere in Edmonton after a famous location elsewhere. Let’s name the big hill planned for the north end of the site ‘Mont Royal’, and the adjacent area ‘Le Plateau’. Kingsway Ave can be renamed the Champs-Élysées, and Kingsway Mall can become the Mall of Americas – because having two West Edmonton Malls in one city would be too confusing. The possibilities are truly endless.

Sol’Town – now I’m just confused.

I do, however, enjoy the landing page for the survey. Fancy. Makes me want to hit up Sol’Town for some $23 martinis.

Seriously, though, the survey and process does provide insight into how many Edmontonians think about our city. It’s a reflection some image of a city we’d like to see Edmonton as, not the city we are. Two notable airport to residential community conversions – Stapleton in Denver and Mueller in Austin – preserved their names, and I doubt anyone feels that cheapened them. In fact, the link to the history is more likely to enhance the community. Its current state is an evolution, another step in the site’s history.

Many citizens – and as the Journal story points out, the Naming Committee and architects as well, preferred the name Blatchford. As Mayor in the 1920s, Kenneth Blatchford purchased the farm that would become Edmonton’s first airport (on the City Centre Airport land). His son was a flying ace, and became a distinguished pilot in World War II – in which the City Centre Airport played a crucial role.

This is just one example. There would surely be other appropriate names that respect and celebrate the site’s history and who we are as a city. The Blatchford name, in this instance, would recognize two citizens who made a great contribution, and reestablish a link to a proud part of Edmonton’s history. Why can’t that be enough?

Update! – the genesis of the names are pretty much what you’d expect.

Sande said they picked Avia Park as a riff off aviation and because it sounds avant-garde. Sol’Town is a reference to solar and to being near the soul of the city. Central Park was picked because there will be a large, central park space and because New York’s Central Park gives it instant name recognition.

Crossroads refers to the meeting place between Kingsway and Princess Elizabeth Avenue, and because it sounds catchy, as in, “‘We’ve met at the Crossroads.’ It’s got excellent marketing potential.”

Wingfield and The Landing are again references to the site as a former airport.

We have different definitions of avant garde, but at least he’s honest in admitting Central Park is cribbed. Also, count me as one young person who the name Blatchford resonates with.

On the plus side, as I said on Twitter, I’m looking forward to saying “see you at the crossroads…” in sing-song fashion:

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10 Responses

  1. I’m amused by Wingfield. The January 14, 2010 opening night performance of “Wingfield Lost and Found” at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton was Rod Beattie’s 4,000th performance of a Wingfield play in a little over twenty-five years. Dan Needles’ plays mean he OWNS the word Wingfield! And it is like using Leacock’s “Mariposa” – small-town, bumbling and a bit goofy. Couldn’t the consultants have at least googled the word? The plays are the top 4 results when I search.

  2. Excellent point. I saw Wingfield show up when I googled the term, but didn’t make the connection. Also, has someone trademarked Sol’Town yet?

  3. I like the history behind Blatchford but find it awful to say. “Blatch” is just an unattractive set of letters. I didn’t mind The Landing, but it sounds like a nickname… like perhaps no one liked saying Blatchford Landing and referred to it colloquially as the Landing.

  4. I’m not a big fan of any of the shortlisted names. I don’t mind Blatchford Field or even Kingsway Park. Kingsway Avenue, as it is now known, was called Portage Avenue until the visit of King George VI in 1939. After the visit, Portage Avenue was renamed Kingsway in honour of the parade that traveled down that avenue (my grandfather and his family traveled from Morinville to Edmonton to watch the parade in 1939).

    I do have to say that the survey website leaves a lot to be desired.

    First, it is not clear who is conducting the survey or whether the website is legitimate. I hesitated to enter the survey because it was not clear who I was submitting my contact information to.

    Second, at the bottom of the webpage that asks respondents to rank the shortlisted names, the text says that respondents can submit their own suggestions and feedback, but there is no contact information listed on the website.

    If the City of Edmonton is paying companies like Consumer Strategies Group to conduct these types of online surveys, the City should expect better quality services.

    My two, three, or four thoughts.

    Dave
    http://www.daveberta.ca

  5. I tried Googling but came up empty handed to see if that land existed in any of the 17,000 years before airplanes were invented.

    So fine, let’s just call it Airport Forever!

  6. Alex
    I agree with Dave in his comments about the City’s habits paying outside companies to take a survey that could be better done in house at a more grass roots level. I have often commented that the City departments have an adversion to dealing with the public and prefer to show us a “done deal” rather than deal with neighbourhoods and groups directly. We are always told that “we have learned our lesson” after some fiasco only to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have learned nothing at the next fiasco.
    This is the next fiasco.

    On a separate note…have not noticed the large pile of rocks at the other end of the Quesnell bridge. I hope it is an indication of a new direction that the City is taking vis a vis the Talus Dome. It looks much nicer, fits the venue better and doesn’t need a fence around it.

    I think I send a congraulations e-mail to Mayor Mandell

    • Great points. I often get the feeling it’s one step forward two steps back (or one step forward one step back, maybe two steps forward one step back). You get the idea…

      On Talus Dome, it’s always been the plan to do the landscaping this summer. It wasn’t communicated well (or at all) from the start.

  7. [...] another name change. Gig City points out that six finalists – which I pray are better than this list of six – for the new name will be unveiled this week, and voted on by [...]

  8. I agree with your sentiments on naming, and Blatchford isn’t a bad name. Although not quite as sophisticated, I’d also throw out “The Muni” and “The Airport” as possible names. Most famous locations in cities started out as merely functional names and have gained fame over time. Let’s pick something functional and let it gain fame in the future.

    On the topic of naming parts of the city after famous parts of other cities, I wholeheartedly agree with your criticism. It bugged me that Calgary has neighbourhoods named “The Hamptons” and “Hollywood” amongst others.

  9. [...] It started with the discussion over the proposed names for the City Centre Airport redevelopment (Alex Abboud has a good post on this). And then it really ramped up with the effort to rename Capital Ex, which was itself a renaming of [...]

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