Local News

Raleigh Leaders Head South For Inside Look At Successful Revitalization Effort

Posted April 22, 2004

— Some local leaders are taking a trip Thursday, hoping to get new ideas about turning part of Raleigh around.

Nearly 90 business, city, county and business leaders from the Triangle are going on a look and learn tour of

Jacksonville, Fla.,

a city that has successfully revitalized its downtown area.

The goal of the trip is to see if any of Jacksonville's concepts can be incorporated in Raleigh.

While Jacksonville's population is more than double Raleigh's, some of the issues the two cities face are the same.

"A marketplace like ours is growing very fast and a marketplace like theirs is growing fast," said Harvey Schmitt of the

Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

.

The Raleigh Chamber of Commerce wants to learn about several successful projects that have happened in the city. They will examine Jacksonville's best practices and take a closer look at downtown development and transportation -- its use of buses, trolleys and skyway express.

The city also offers a unique skill development training program in high schools. And with a new sports arena, Raleigh is interested in how Jacksonville has positioned itself to be a premier sports destination. The city will host the Super Bowl in 2005.

The Florida city is currently investing $2.2 billion in capital and infrastructure from a sales tax referendum. Raleigh wants to know more about the city's strong community spirit that led to its passage.

"I think one of the things we are going to have to look at is how we are going to deal with the demand for improvements and infrastructure here, whether its through that mechanism or another one. It's an issue I think we are going to have to address," Schmitt said.

Raleigh leaders emphasize they do not want to overpromise and under-deliver in terms of this sort of trip. Although they are looking for ideas, they say the trip is not immediately geared for direct return.

The group will be in Jacksonville through Sunday.

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