The headline caught my eye, believe it or not: “Does neighborhood rebranding work?”

Writing on The Atlantic’s Cities blog (theatlanticcities.com), Rocky Casale began to frame an answer. He discussed three makeovers in progress in London, Beirut and Milan. The London-based journalist may not have had Akron remotely in mind, yet the University Park Alliance is involved in no less, seeking to bring a sense of place to the 50 blocks surrounding the University of Akron.

What Casale relays are both the necessary ambition and the immense challenge. In London, developers have been attempting to ignite “The Shard,” in the southern part of the city, around the old London Bridge Station. They have struggled with something as elementary as fixing a new name, identity proving elusive in the “London Bridge Quarter.”

In Beirut, developers are a decade or more into a bid to rebrand downtown. They have contended with war. They thought they had a good idea in incorporating remnants of the ancient Ottoman and Phoenician civilizations. According to Casale, all that has been missing from the mix of old and modern is “how residents might experience the new city.”

Or that elusive identity thing, again, a plan grounded more firmly in reality.

In Milan, the historic fairground and exhibition center, now largely industrial space, is the centerpiece of what Casale describes as “currently the largest urban revitalization project in continental Europe.” Celebrated architects have been enlisted. Office buildings and condos have been erected. What has been hard to shake is the reputation, an area long considered lifeless and hard to imagine otherwise.

This is hard work, as Eric Anthony Johnson and others at the University Park Alliance know well. What inspires and drives is the magnitude of what could be achieved, especially in an aging industrial town like Akron. Bring a true sense of place to the city’s core, and you really deliver something transformational, to use that tired word.

For Akron, any degree of success turns on collaboration, or what so many community leaders insist the city has in abundance. Johnson has a dedicated partner in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He has attracted talented planners and developers. A recent summit revealed much neighborhood support. Yet the effort will falter quickly without the leading local players acting in concert.

That includes, notably, the University of Akron, Summa Health System and the city. The players must act as one, knowing an advance for the whole will benefit each. They must communicate — in this big test of how well the city’s parts work together. Let’s avoid a Rocky Casale showing up some day to find University Park still searching for an identity.

— MICHAEL DOUGLAS

Editorial page editor