I don’t mean to pick on Lavomatic, or the other merchants in the Gateway Quarter. Honestly, I think that these places are great and are a crucial part of what is needed for OTR to be a healthy neighborhood. But, as some know, this blog started with a post about the Gateway Quarter as an example of place branding. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of these ideas four months later in the context of an article written about Lavomatic.
More interesting to me than the specifics of this instance are the perceptions and portrayals of transitioning urban neighborhoods in general. The article is primarily about the food and is written by a food critic, so the comments should be understood in that context. I am not trying to devalue the point of the article because it is well written and does exactly what it is supposed to. This is interesting to me because of its relationship to place branding. It is not an expert urbanist’s perception of the neighborhood, but has some implications for thinking about the Gateway Quarter as a place.
The article starts by commenting that “It’s a big scary world out there. So it’s good to find a place that creates its own cozy corner of it, a restaurant with a well-developed sense of where exactly it is.”
I’m not sure how this was intended, but in the context of what follows and the general perception of its location I read a big scary neighborhood. Also, I’m interested to know how this “well-developed sense of where exactly it is” relates to this big scary world.
The article then mentions that “Lavomatic is a cornerstone of the neighborhood that’s evolving as the Gateway Quarter on the blocks of Vine Street north of Central Parkway.” Cornerstone might be an overstatement, but it is important
What my initial post eventually alluded to, is that the development of the Gateway Quarter in being conflated with OTR. Effectively, psychologically isolating an area from the perceptions of its surroundings neighborhood and carving a safe space in the contested territory that is OTR. This has some value, but my opinion is that it can also be detrimental to building a tolerant community. My concern is still that this might be divisive and exclusive.
The introduction concludes by describing Lavomatic.
“In a former laundry (lavomatic, in French) it has a homey theme evoking freshly washed clothes and domesticity. Close to the Art Academy, Know Theatre and Ensemble Theatre, it also feels arty and urban-cool. It’s a neighborhood restaurant worth traveling to.”
“Evoking freshly washed clothes and domesticity” is awesome and I’ll let the “arty urban-cool” go because its exactly what my mother would say. But a “neighborhood restaurant worth traveling to” made me think for a minute. And I still feel a bit puzzled. Is it a neighborhood restaurant that those who live here can enjoy or a place that requires outsiders to travel?