Thursday, December 13, 2012

Louisville hitting "NuLo" by adopting silly neighborhood names

Goofy hipsters say it loud and say it PROUD!
Louisville's leaders seem to "borrow" most of their ideas from other places.

That's not an impressive quality coming from the self-titled "Idea Capital of the World."

Rather, many Louisville residents see their hometown as the "me too" capital of the world; a place where original ideas go to become replicated on a half-hearted, half-scale basis.

You don't have to look much further beyond Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's defining first term issue for proof. Fischer's local option sales tax idea was "borrowed" from Oklahoma City and/or Denver.

Another troubling trend seeping its way into our city is the concept of re-branding neighborhoods as fashionable shopping districts with silly, two syllable names.

This trend cannot die quickly enough.

As is the usual custom, we have adopted an idea that has already run its course in other places. People have begun to openly mock the re-branding concept in other cities, just as we run head first into it.

It began with NuLu (New Louisville), also known as the East Market District. The word "NuLu" is what is known as a portmanteau - a combination of two words into one new word - and is some of the world's most pretentious B.S.

Go anywhere outside the Watterson Expressway and ask citizens what they think of NuLu and they pretty much say the same thing.

They don't get it.

"What a stupid name," says my friend Scott from South Louisville. "That naming bit is the worst possible thing they can steal from other places. There's a serious backlash in New York City and Denver over it. The whole thing is so fake. And it's idiotic because we have some great history here. Where does it end?"

Indeed. Opponents of these re-branding schemes say the names erase the historical aspect of a city and sanitize it in an effort to make white people feel safe enough to venture downtown with a pocket full of money to spend.

New York City is ground zero for this naming goofiness (TriBeCa, DUMBO), and Denver, Colorado has become saturated with hipster 'hoods that have terrible names like LoDo, SoBo, NoBo, BuCu and RiNo.

Chicago even has a MoFo.

Is this what you want?

Mostly a creation of real estate developers, the names are traditionally affixed after a formerly undesirable neighborhood becomes gentrified. The problem with the names are many. Generally, people don't like them. Some dismiss the newly-named area immediately as a matter of principle. "It's about authenticity, " says my friend. "They are trying too hard. It's almost like one of those fake towns in the old western movies, with the storefronts propped up by two-by-fours."

If you think Louisville's flirtation with re-branding stops with NuLu, you're going to be very upset. We also have been saddled with SoBro (south of Broadway) and SoFo (South Fourth Street).

SoBro? It's where the Main Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library is located. It was either "SoBro" or "LuFrePuLi".

The SoFo thing is very contrived and stands for all that is wrong about this phenomenon. Just read these words from the SOFO Louisville Facebook page:

SOFO Louisville is the new Retail Shopping District in Louisville, KY! Located on South Fourth Street between the Historic Seelbach and Brown Hotel we will offer unique local shops & boutique's, fabulous dining and five star hotels!

SOFO! Ya know...South Fourth! Say it loud and say it PROUD! SOFO Louisville will be supported by the SOFO Louisville Merchants Association.
I am too young to have experienced shopping downtown on Fourth Street, but like most lifelong Louisvillians, my parents have vivid and fond memories of the ritual. It was all very romantic in a way, and was emblematic of something that was uniquely Louisville. Just saying the words "Fourth Street" to any 60-year-old who was born and raised here is enough to conjure up happy memories and a story or two about Stewart's Dry Goods or the Palace Theater on South Fourth.

Note to developers: That is what you sell. The realness. The authentic. The historical.

Not "SoFo," the forced, artificial creation of some transplanted hipster who has obviously never understood the significance of Fourth Street to Louisville.

We should be shooting for One Louisville in which everyone's invited. SoFo and places like it say, "This is not for you."

Buying into this nonsense only furthers the fragmentation of an already divided city.

Please resist this dying fad before we end up with NoDo, SoPo and MoRon.


  1. Dude, awesome piece. Took the words right out of my mouth. Glad you're back!!!

  2. "Chicago even has a MoFo".

    I had to stop for a moment and chuckle about that one. -lol!

  3. ugh, they have started repeating this crap on the news now. and they're saying nulu has a north and a south?? WTF???