What’s in a name?

Plains

In Regina this month (Nov. 18), there is going to be an open house/public consultation regarding the condominiums that will replace The Plains Hotel in Regina’s downtown.  If you are unfamiliar with this project, look here:

http://www.leaderpost.com/hotel+condo+complex+replace+Plains+Regina/1882703/story.html

http://www.leaderpost.com/Regina+based+Westgate+Development+head+Plains+Hotel+project/1886528/story.html

http://www.newstalk980.com/story/20090922/22763

In addition to the comments posted on those stories, here are a few reactions from contributors of our local independent bi-weekly:

http://prairiedogmag.blogspot.com/2009/08/thats-it-im-moving.html

http://prairiedogmag.blogspot.com/2009/08/steel-and-glass.html

And, finally, here is a blog dedicated to The Plains Hotel and it’s notable bar “Good Time Charlies”:

http://plainshotelandgoodtimecharlies.blogspot.com/

If you’ve never heard of The Plains Hotel, well… you are just missing out.

So, The Plains Hotel is slated for demolition next spring and a new, shiny, hotel and condo complex will take its place with only the weather tower being retained.  While this is a contentious issue for some people, I want to talk about something that doesn’t get much play… the name of this complex.

It may seem like a small detail, but I think that place names are important for community cohesion, history, and image.  So, I want to take a moment and accept that The Plains will not exist in its current physical form (because obviously the owners have their reasons for making this change) and instead examine the importance (or lack of importance) of the name.

The current name (proposed or accepted) for the hotel/condos, Westgate Plaza, seems very sterile to me – not unlike Wingate by Wyndham… or whatever it is that exists on the corner of Broad Street and Saskatchewan Drive (for the record, it is one of many hotels with the EXACT SAME name that are franchised by Wyndham).  Names with this type of corporate image always seem to be devoid of prestige, history, and a sense of self (which is rather ironic considering that brand recognition always seeks to build prestige and consistency).  When I think of hotels with history and intrigue, they have proper names independant of their chain: The Hotel Saskatchewan, The Empress (Victoria), The King George, The Landmark Hotel (Regina hotel demolished), hell… even The Empire Hotel has a history and image regardless of whether you like it or not.  I certainly don’t think of the endless Quality Hotels or Holiday Inns that exist.  They all seem the same with no unique features to set them apart, and they don’t seem to make a contribution to the local colour.  I don’t want to sound naive or like this is a local vs chain issue.  I know that The Hotel Saskatchewan is owned by the Radisson chain of hotels – in fact, technically it is called The Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan.  However this was not always the case, and even the original builders/owners, Canadian Pacific Railway, gave it a name apart from its own image.

Buildings used to be named with a sense of purpose or history as well.  Think of The Donahue block, The Cornwall Professional Building, The Leader Building, The Traveller’s Building, to name just a few in downtown Regina.  Often buildings were named to denote their architect, first tenant, or purpose: The Traveller’s Building was named as such because it housed offices for travelling salesmen; The Leader Building was named after the first tenant, The Regina Leader.  I take pleasure in the deliberate choice to mark history into stone with a name.  Even when the businesses or initial purpose changes, there is still some tangible link to why it was created.

So I wonder: Do building/business names really show a sense of pride and purpose?  Can history and our collective heritage be retained with a name instead of bricks and mortar?  What if the building changed, but the hotel or condos were still called The Plains … would that matter?  I personally think there is even some camp value to be found in owning a glossy condo at “The Plains”.

I don’t know how much say the owners have in this decision.  Perhaps, when you decide to become a part of The Hilton chain, you give up your right to a unique name that speaks some truth about your history and community.  Though in this case the proposed name, Westgate Plaza, is no doubt a reference to the developers: Westgate Developments… so who knows how that works.  Maybe a letter writing campaign is in order to save not only the weather tower, but some small piece of our shared experience.

In the end, the community can call buildings and places what they like.  I personally have not heard anyone talk about Mosaic Stadium or the Conexus Arts Centre – only Taylor Field and The Centre of the Arts.  At McGill, there is a building lovingly referred to as “The Shatner Building” even though McGill’s rules state that a building cannot be named after a living person (in this case referring to former student, William Shatner)… I don’t even know what the name of that building really is because for everyone it is The Shatner Building.  Maybe that is the approach needed here.

I know that for me, The Plains will always be The Plains regardless of the slick image or hollow brand.

—–

If you are interested in being a part of the discussion regarding The Plains hotel condo conversion, you can register here: http://www.reginalandmark.com/ .  I hope to attend and bring this up as a point of discussion.

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What’s in a name?

3 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. jeff says:

    i agree

    “westgate plaza” could be in bangkok, singapore, kuala lumpur, sydney, johannesburg, miami, san francisco … anywhere. boring non-descript name

    1. Thanks for the update! I think that is a better option than Westgate Plaza, though again, I would probably personally still enjoy it being called The Plains.

      I think to increase the relevance of a name like Capital Pointe it would help if that corner was referred to as the “the pointe” or “capital corner” or something like that… although both of those sound dumb to me right now. Perhaps in a few years if that corner is a really happening place, people will refer to it as “the pointe”…. like, “Meet me at the pointe in 20 minutes, we’ll go for coffee”….

      Thoughts? Anyone think that will happen?

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