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What Does Future Hold For Raleigh?

Raleigh leaders kicked off an 18-month study Thursday to predict and manage growth in the capital city.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh leaders launched an 18-month study Thursday to predict and manage growth in the capital city.

With its emphasis on technology and education, Raleigh is being looked at as one of the emerging cities of the 21st century, city officials point out. The city's Comprehensive Plan has not been updated since 1989, however, and Raleigh needs some long-range planning to stay competitive, officials also said.

Mayor Charles Meeker said Raleigh faces a different set of challenges than when the blueprint for city planners was first put together

"Actually, the major concern about the plan then was, was it so restrictive that it would stifle growth? And of course, the exact opposite has happened. We had faster growth," said Meeker, who was a councilman when the 1989 Comprehensive Plan was formed.

Since then, Raleigh's population has grown by 72 percent to 368,000, and those numbers are taxing the city's dwindling water supply and putting a strain on the school system.

The new Comprehensive Plan must anticipate growth of that magnitude, as well as learn from the expansion of the past 20 years, said Mitchell Silver, Raleigh's planning director. The plan will look out to 2030, when officials estimate Raleigh's population might top 700,000.

"We're going to have to go up more, with taller buildings, instead of going out as much. Secondly, we really have to strengthen our transportation system so that not everyone is in a car," Meeker said.

Silver said one of his goals is to get other areas in Wake County – including Cary and Knightdale – to buy into the comprehensive plan. There are only 20,000 acres left within the city that can be developed. Another 20,000 acres lie within Wake County.

The Comprehensive Plan guides the city's decision-making on zoning and about physical and economic development. Planners have identified a preliminary set of key issues: greater predictability in the development process, investing to keep Raleigh competitive, environmental sustainability and building public streets, spaces and places.

The public is invited to attend a series of citywide workshops as the city defines the goals of the Comprehensive Plan. Workshops will be held at:

  • Nov. 13, 6:30 - 9 p.m. in the Central District Shepherd's Hall, The Church of the Good Shepherd, 125 Hillsborough St.
  • Nov. 14, 6:30 - 9 p.m. in the Southwest District McKimmon Conference and Training Center, NCSU, 1101 Gorman St.
  • Nov. 15, 6:30 - 9 p.m. in the Northeast District North Raleigh Church of Christ, 8701 Falls of Neuse Road

The Comprehensive Plan will be developed in four stages, with the goal of publishing a draft in October 2008 and presenting a final plan to the City Council in April or May 2009. Public input will be sought at all stages, officials said.

History shows that city planners got some things right in 1989, such as the city's greenways and parks system. However, a glaring mistake was closing Fayetteville Street and making it into a mall. The strip was reopened as a street in 2006.

"Malls were demanding more of a commercial interest in the city. Folks thought, 'If we make Fayetteville Street into a mall, maybe that will bring people back.' It didn't," John Sutton, with the Raleigh City Museum, said.

Much of the task facing the city is to learn lessons from its past planning efforts, Silver said.

"(For) my job, I have to have hindsight, insight and foresight. You make the best decision based on what you know," he said.


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