Raleigh looks to the future as downtown grows

Planners say people are thirsty for a booming downtown area.
April 3, 2014 4:46:34 AM PDT
As Raleigh's population grows, so does the demand for more of everything - especially in the downtown area.

Planners say people are thirsty for a booming downtown. So Wednesday night, they asked them to write their ideas down. The goal is to do what the city did on Fayetteville Street to all of downtown Raleigh by adding more things to do like restaurants, shopping, and more places to live. They want to really make downtown a destination.

"What actually brings someone to downtown Raleigh? Shopping, food, entertainment," said Latika Vick, with the Forestville Citizens Advisory Council.

Vick was one of many at the convention center wanting the same thing -- to express her ideas and get everyone else's. Organizers were gathering visions that people wrote on yellow notepads. The idea was to possibly make them a reality in the next decade.

"We in government, in the business community," said Mitchell Silver, with Raleigh planning. "We cannot do this alone."

Silver says he hears it all the time: "We need more in downtown Raleigh."

"More affordable opportunities for people who want to live here. What about entertainment, arts, culture?" said Silver.

There's also been a lot of talk of adding grocery stores, movie theaters, and more convenient shopping. However, right now, Raleigh just doesn't have the numbers to support those businesses yet.

"They look for at least 10,000 people living within one square mile of our downtown. 20,000 is even better," said Silver. "We're right about that point."

It sounds great, but not everyone wants to plow into all these ideas. Resident George Sharpley said he's taking a cautious approach. He's worried about the bottom line for those living here in ten years.

"I don't understand. That's our children paying for all this," said Sharpley.

Money and growth are all part of the ongoing conversation to improve a downtown that has more than 40,000 people working there, plus more than 160 restaurants, bars, clubs, and 1,600 either existing - or soon to be apartment homes.

Planners say growth is coming. They want to figure out how to give people what they need and want, and the best way to do it.

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