Milwaukee Avenue/Logan Square identity

Street/neighborhood character

Earlier this year I volunteered with a Neighbors Project (see blogroll in right column) project in Lakeview and asked a dozen or so people milling around Lakeview some questions designed to get a feel for what they identified with the neighborhood.

What do you identify with Milwaukee Avenue? [Update: Reader/ commenter/blogger The Urbanophile rightly illuminates that I should be more specific, so let’s say Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, or if you dare to drill down even more, the 2600 and 2700 blocks — just let us know in the comments section what level of specificity you’re talking about.] Or — more generally — what do you identify with Logan Square? Here are some questions to consider (if you live outside of Chicago, consider the questions for your own neighborhood):

  • What’s the most memorable thing you’ve seen or done on Milwaukee Avenue? in Logan Square?
  • What one word best sums up Milwaukee Avenue? Logan Square? why?
  • What makes Milwaukee Avenue different than other streets in Logan Square?
  • What makes Logan Square different than other Chicago neighborhoods?
  • What landmark or street most captures Logan Square? why?

Festival identity

Mention South by Southwest (SXSW), and where do you place it? How about Sundance? Maybe you’ve heard of the Idea Festival (also see Idea Festival blog)? Do you think of a state? of a city?

Can it work at the neighborhood level? Mention Around the Coyote, and where did you place it (until this year)? Can it work at an even smaller scale, like a street or a district (without an obvious location identifying name)? Like the Pride Parade?

(I confess, I had not until last week heard of the Idea Festival. It was brought to my attention by The Urbanophile [see blogroll in right column] in Kris Kimel gets it, and the comments there are worth a gander. The founder says they’re still working toward their goal of being the preeminent event in the world for innovation [see video below], so I don’t feel too much out of the loop.)


There’s something to be said of branding a street, a district, a neighborhood like you would any other product, but there’s potential to go too far. I, for one, do not want Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Square to be seen as just one thing. But I do want people to positively identify with the commercial corridor and the neighborhood. (Lately I keep hearing of the neighborhood associated with “hipsters,” and I haven’t decided if that’s positive or not!)

Milwaukee Avenue/Logan Square identity

These thoughts on identity have come to the fore recently with readings and inquiries, begging the questions: What would Milwaukee Avenue’s identity be? What should it be? What would Logan Square’s be? What should it be?

To motivate your thoughts, I leave you with some suggestions on “Pursuing Big Ideas” that came out of this year’s Idea Festival as reported by The New York Times:

  • Think when you are not thinking, for example, on a run or walk.
  • Listen to classical music, go to a concert or a play or sit quietly in a park to daydream.
  • Surround yourself with creative thinkers.
  • Immerse yourself in a problem; ask questions, investigate possible outcomes.
  • Keep an idea journal.
  • Be curious and experiment.
  • Articulate your idea, seek feedback, put structure on it, harvest it.

Especially take that last one to heart and articulate your idea here. Ask a couple of your neighbors to as well. I’m eager to get some discussion going here to shape Milwaukee Avenue.

Holiday diversions in Logan Square:

Sulzen Fine Art nails-vertStudio
Holiday Show: opening reception Friday, December 5, from
5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.; show and sale continues Saturday and Sunday, December 6 & 7, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., at 2720 W. St. Georges Court

N.A.I.L.S. Holiday Art
Sale and Show
: Saturday,
December 6, from
1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., at
2328 N. Milwaukee Ave.,
2nd floor

8 Responses to Milwaukee Avenue/Logan Square identity

  1. I think it is linked to the identity of the district as a whole. Which has primacy in your mind, creating an identity for Logan Square or creating on for Milwaukee Ave? The street itself traverses many neighborhoods, and potentially there could be a cross-neighborhood identity to the street, for example.

    The Urbanophile: My primary focus is in revitalizing the stretch of Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square between Logan Boulevard and Diversey Avenue. I don’t know if such a small portion of the street can grab an identity, so I’m exploring both the identity of the street (within Logan Square only, and more specifically the 2600 and 2700 blocks) and of the neighborhood. ~ Lynn

  2. Chris says:

    The ideas brought forward here are relevant for anyone living in Logan Square, and to put toward any community. Lynn was kind enough to get in touch with me after seeing that I am doing an art installation about this subject. This saturday at 2333 Milwaukee Ave, i’ll be conducting an interactive project seeking conversation from the audience about the identity of Logan Square. I am also looking for participants to get involved, share their ideas of the community, and discuss with the audience. Please let me know if you are interested in getting involved. ctbradley [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks again, Lynn.

    Chris: That installation was awesome Saturday night. ~ Lynn

  3. Lynn, I’ll try to shoot over there this weekend and make a survey of the area. I’ll send you any thoughts I have afterwards.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Try to also drop in at the neighborhood art sales going on this weekend (see Holiday diversions at the end of this post). ~ Lynn

  4. Maybe a couple of blocks of a street can have an identity. I was just thinking about Lincoln Square. But what makes it different? and can we achieve a similar something with Milwaukee Avenue? ~ Lynn

  5. I don’t know the area so I can’t comment specifically. But you need to be very careful about thinking about branding vs. identity. Branding is really a process. Identity is what you have, your authenticity. Branding is how you communicate it outward, at least to me. Your neighborhood’s opportunity for its commercial district is dependent on the assets present and able to be harvested.

    If you’re up for reading, I recommend:

    _Marketing an Image for Main Street_ from the Main Street center

    _Competitive Identity_ by Simon Anholt

    _Tourism Development Handbook: A Practical Approach to Planning and Marketing _

    some of this I wrote about in this entry in 2/2005:

    Town-City branding or “We are all destination managers now”

    From the standpoint of “we are all destination managers now” using destination development principles really matter. Kathy Smith’s book on DC, _Capital Assets_, really taught me about destination readiness and complete destinations (something to do-see, something to eat, something to buy) and the 3 stages: (1) ready; (2) ready with assistance; (3) a long way from ready…

    On branding processes I really like _Designing Brand Identity_ and _Worldbranding_.

    And a number of chapters in Berger’s _Wayfinding: Designing and Implementing Graphic Navigational Systems_ are very good–not just the one on cities, but historic sites, museums, campuses, and transportation systems are also excellent.

    Oh, and many many years ago, Philip Kotler, the great marketing professor at Northwestern co-authored a book on _Marketing Places_.

    Richard: You”re right about branding. You build from or brand the existing identity. And maybe the process of branding itself is what would take it too far in my mind.
    Thanks for the resources. I’ll have to look into those. ~ Lynn

  6. jossbot says:

    I think LS is getting there. We’re catching on to Wicker Park but in a more diverse way. Overall, it’s a relaxed area to meet and hang out, with better prices and parking options.

    What landmark or street most captures Logan Square? The naked guy on the bus stop jijijij he’s always mistreated with graffiti but it’s part of LS 🙂

    My list of love:
    The Logan Theatre
    The Polish bakeries
    The Gap Outlet
    Dunlay’s On the Square
    El Cid

    Come visit!

    jossbot: If the naked guy (I assume you’re talking about the Atlas mural at the Logan Square “el”/bus stop) is an identifiable part of Logan Square, what would you think if the mural is replaced with another? There has been talk of doing so. And I can remember a time when it wasn’t there (tho I don’t remember what preceded it).

    I like what you say about “in a more diverse way,” because I don’t want Logan Square to become a Wicker Park. ~ Lynn

    To all readers: If you haven’t yet, maybe you should follow jossbot’s advice and come visit! Soon. Before the naked guy disappears.

  7. Daniel says:

    I’d love to see this strip of Milwaukee more closely align with my interests and therefore be more reflective of my identity (art school bgrnd, coffee shop to hang, local galleries), but it raises the issue of identity identificaton. Do we perceive it to not have an identity because we ‘re not completely identifying with its current one? Do the generations of families that shop there give it an identity – even if it simply revolves around low-cost, easily-accessible goods. Its tough – I don’t want to be an interloper, but as a resident it’s also now my neighborhood to help grow, and my sense of growth is informed by my interests.

    Daniel: If this portion of Milwaukee did have the coffee shop and art galleries, would it be different than another area that had that? What would distinguish it from other places that might have the same offerings?

    If you identify it currently with low-cost, easily-accessible goods, what’s its identity that distinguishes it from another place that offers the same? ~ Lynn

  8. Jossbot says:

    Lynn, that’s the guy! I guess “Atlas mural” sounds better than “naked guy from the EL” haha but that’s him. I love it how every time someone draws some funny business on him, the city sends someone to fix it.
    If he was gone, what would people do?! It’s such an easy (and naked) reference point. The “Wrigley Mural” wouldn’t be as fun 😛

    So interactivity might be the identifying feature! ~ Lynn

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