Raleigh, N.C. — Providing residents and visitors with options on how to get around will be critical to Raleigh's future growth and vitality, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Monday.
In her annual State of the City address, McFarlane outlined Raleigh's recent achievements and laid out some priorities for continued success.
"Raleigh is not only a good place to start a business, but Raleigh is a great place to grow," she said, "and we are growing."
The city's tax base grew by $448 million last year, and during the first two months of 2013, Raleigh has landed 11 business relocations or expansions, which total 425 jobs and $55.4 million in capital investment, she said.
Raleigh's unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, compared with 9.2 percent for North Carolina and 7.8 percent nationally.
The city must continue to invest in necessary infrastructure, such as its water and sewer systems, as well as in parks and amenities that improve the local quality of life, she said. Securing the former Dorothea Dix Hospital campus for a 325-acre urban park near downtown is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for Raleigh.
"We know it will be a place of central importance to people in the state and in Raleigh," she said. "We want to develop this park into what everyone wants."
McFarlane also praised the local efforts to land the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual awards festival, which will be held downtown in September. She noted that arts provide $143 million for the local economy.
"I think we're well on our way to becoming the Southern capital of arts and culture," she said.
As the city grows, however, Raleigh must focus more on transit, the mayor said.
"Transportation is going to be key," she said. "How we plan our future growth is going to revolve around how we get around."
The project to transform a vacant warehouse on the western edge of downtown into Union Station for future train and bus service will be "transformational," McFarlane said. Raleigh also is working to redesign major thoroughfares to make them more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.
"Raleigh is focused on being a city where people want to live, and what people want is options," she said. "We are dedicated to being a multi- modal city."