Urban Rebranding

Aims Of Urban Rebranding


Rebranding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination therefor is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, and competitors.

Case Study: London Docklands


London Docklands were originally built and managed by a number of competing private companies. Then in 1909 these companies were amalgamated by the Port of London Authority (PLA) in a bid to make the docks more efficient and improve labour relations. The PLA constructed the last of the docks, the King George V, in 1921, as well as greatly expanding the Tilbury docks.

During WW2 German bombing caused massive damage to the docks and so once the war ended the rebuilding they experienced a resurgence of prosperity in the 1950s. The end came suddenly, between approximately 1960 and 1970, when the shipping industry adopted the newly invented container system of cargo transportation. London’s docks were unable to accommodate the much larger vessels needed by containerization and the shipping industry moved to deep-water ports such as Tilbury and Felixstowe. Between 1960 and 1980, all of London’s docks were closed, leaving around eight square miles (21 km²) of derelict land in East London. Unemployment was high, and poverty and other social problems were rife.


Efforts to redevelop the docks began almost as soon as they were closed, although it took a decade for most plans to move beyond the drawing board and another decade for redevelopment to take full effect. The situation was greatly complicated by the large number of landowners involved: the PLA, the Greater London Council (GLC), the British Gas Corporation, five borough councils, British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board.

To address this problem, in 1981 the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, formed the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) to redevelop the area. This was a statutory body appointed and funded by central government (a quango), with wide powers to acquire and dispose of land in the Docklands. It also served as the development planning authority for the area.

Another important government intervention was the designation in 1982 of an enterprise zone, an area in which businesses were exempt from property taxes and had other incentives, including simplified planning and capital allowances. This made investing in the Docklands a significantly more attractive proposition and was instrumental in starting a property boom in the area.

The massive development programme managed by the LDDC during the 1980s and 1990s saw a huge area of the Docklands converted into a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial space. The clearest symbol of the whole effort was the ambitious Canary Wharf project that constructed Britain’s tallest building and established a second major financial centre in London. However, there is no evidence that the LDDC foresaw this scale of development and nearby Heron Quays had already been developed as low density offices when Canary Wharf was proposed, with similar development already underway on Canary Wharf itself, Limehouse Studios being the most famous occupant.

Canary Wharf was far from trouble free and the property slump of the early 1990s halted development for several years. Developers found themselves saddled with property which they were unable to sell or let.

Case Study: Bradford

Map of Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford in West Yorkshire, England with a population of around 500,000 is one of the 10 largest cities in the UK. Its growth was based on the textile industry, particularly wool, but this industry collapsed during the second half of the 20th century. This was largely due to the invention of new synthetic fabrics. Faced with deindustrialisation, Bradford City Council has been forced to do three things:

  • Find a new range of economic activities to support the city
  • Find new uses for land that was once occupied by the woollen industry
  • Shake off its old images of a rundown city of closed woollen mills- create a new image for the city.

Bradford has done well in terms of building up a new economy. It now has some modern engineering, chemical and IT industries. It has also developed leisure and tourism industry by turning its industry heritage into tourism attractions. Many of the mills still stand, and their exteriors have been smartened up. Inside, they have become museums, craft centres and galleries or been converted into small business units or flats. Other old buildings associated with the woollen industry have undergone a different form of regeneration. They have been demolished and the resulting brownfield sites filled with blocks of offices and flats, shopping centres and premises for Bradford’s new industries.

From this urban regeneration, a reimaged Bradford has emerged. New life has been breathed into the city. However, two challenges remain – to improve the quality of inner-city housing and to create more harmony between Bradford’s ethnic groups. Bradford has one of the largest non-white populations I the UK.



Some of the inner city’s brownfield sites are now being used for the construction of expensive housing (often in gated communities) for young, upwardly-mobile people. Areas of original 19th century housing that survived the bulldozer are undergoing gentrification. Old factory buildings that survived are being conserved and converted into flats, art galleries and museums.


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