Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is it really Leisure World?

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to several hundred residents of Leisure World Seal Beach. I was invited by a group who's identifier is "Where We Live." As keynote speaker, my comments focused on the importance of the large, engaged senior population to the surrounding area. Here is some background on it.

From Construction on the approximately one square mile (2.5 km²) community was begun in 1960 with the first residents moving in on June 6, 1962. This was the first major planned retirement community of its type in the U.S. Today, Leisure World has 9,000 mostly older, retired residents. The Leisure World in Seal Beach was developed by Ross W. Cortese's development company, the Rossmoor Corporation, which also developed the nearby community of Rossmoor. The same company developed several other Leisure Worlds around the United States, and started, but did not complete the Rossmoor gated retirement community in Walnut Creek, California.
The community has three guarded gates with a private security department that provides traffic enforcement, patrol service and gate control 24 hours a day. Housing consists of one and two bedroom apartments as well as condominiums. Recreation opportunities include a swimming pool and heated pool, a 9-hole 3-par golf course, a well-equipped weight room, 6 clubhouses, woodworking and art studios, a sewing room, lawn bowling courts, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard courts, ping-pong tables, pool tables and other amenities. There are also numerous planned activities for the residents, including regular dances with lessons. There is a very large number of clubs and organizations as well as religious groups that meet in Leisure World.

The meeting was focused on what I would consider a phase three branding exercise. Final determination of a first, second and third name choice. What also was interesting was the impetus for the renaming - a potential financial liability by the Cortese heir for the trademark control of the name "Leisure World." Leisure World's entrance is also, as you can see in the photo above, quite dated and commercial in style and feel.

Since the community stands at the exit ramp area of the I-405 freeway and CA-22, it is often the first impression visitors have of our community. Like any brand, there is some benefit for updating the look & feel of it. As is often joked, Seizure World has unfortunately connected it's name to the most infirm of elderly constituents. In reality, it is a vital, vibrant community full of amenities and activities. Since it represents a significant number of voters and consumers (roughly 30% of the full time residents of Seal Beach), any sort of rebranding is likely to have a great impact on our community as a whole.

As to my own feelings, a name change would make sense. The outmoded, dated appearance only creates a visual cueing to an old, out of touch population. This is not an image that I believe captures the essence of it's residents, nor it's vital impact on the City. Added to that, a financial incentive (or lack of liability), it seems to be a no-brainer. Then again, what do I know as a marketing

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