Businesses around Warehouse Row are creating what they call "the warehouse district" to improve the downtown area and give it a stronger sense of place.
The concept of organizing merchants and others is successful elsewhere downtown, such as in the North Shore and Main Street, said Jennifer Mingola of Warehouse Row.
"Branding and signage can be helpful to everyone," she said.
Engineering firm Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc. is relocating its local office from Broad Street to 7,000 square feet in Warehouse Row.
About two dozen business people and others with a presence in the district showed up Thursday to kick off the effort.
Jeff Sykes of Thompson Engineering said organizing the area can raise the its profile.
"It brings a lot of attention," he said.
Billy Woodall, owner of the shop Revival, said the warehouse district will give identity to the cluster of businesses in the area, roughly defined as between M.L. King Boulevard, Broad Street, King Street and 13th Street.
"It's important to know the destination," he said.
Robin Derryberry of Derryberry Public Relations, who led the meeting, cited the North Shore, noting it has developed a sense of neighborhood and community.
"Folks seem to know what's going on over there," she said.
The group inventoried the area's strengths. They include historic buildings, lots of people during work days, government offices, walkability and proximity to hotels.
It also listed weaknesses: transients, parking, vacant buildings, hazardous sidewalks, confusing one-way streets and a lack of gateways.
But, the group sees opportunities in unifying the area, capturing more shoppers and boosting property values.
Threats to achieving its potential include the down national economy, lack of retailers in Warehouse Row and competition with other districts, according to the business people.
Denis Pellerin of the Atlanta firm Pellerin & Salomon, whose company is managing a $10 million redevelopment of Warehouse Row, said the retail and office complex is no longer an outlet mall.
He said it has plans to fill the retail area with boutiques, and there could still be a hotel there one day.
"We're talking really exciting concepts," Mr. Pellerin said, adding that new parking and upgraded space along Lindsay Street should be ready in about a month.
The group plans to meet again.