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Raleigh prepares to grow more diverse, urban

City planners say that by 2030, 700,000 people could live in the Raleigh metro area. That means the City of Oaks will be more diverse and urban.

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Raleigh is one of the nation's fastest-growing cities, and planners say it needs to prepare now to become more diverse and urban.

City officials estimate that Raleigh's population is about 390,000. By 2030, they say, 700,000 people could call the metropolitan area home.

Many of those new residents will be members of groups that are now minorities, officials said.

"We're moving toward a more diverse society, and a lot of Americans just don't know about it," City Planner Mitch Silver said.

At a breakfast meeting Saturday, Raleigh's Human Relations Commission, which is composed of 13 city residents, outlined other changes the city might see.

By 2040, there will be more aging workers. The Hispanic population will have tripled because of the birth rate, city planners said. Single-member households will outnumber households with two or more members.

"I'm going to look at it as a positive thing," said high-school junior Emmanuel Larson, who is a youth liaison to the Human Relations Commission.

Larson said he wants to figure out "what we can do to prepare ourselves for the future and what are the steps we can take to make sure the transition is smooth." The commission will present recommendations to the City Council next month.

Commission members said a good first step is filling out and returning the 2010 census forms to be mailed next April. The U.S. government uses the census results to appropriate funding and determine how many legislators' areas get.

"The census is important in terms of finding out who is here," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Knowing who is living in Raleigh will have a huge impact on city planning for transportation, land use and infrastructure.

Silver said he expects the census numbers will show that the region is becoming more urban.

"(To) urbanize is not a bad thing," he said. "We have to prepare for the growth, or we'll just run out of space."


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