Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Remaking Raleigh" by Bob Geary

Remaking Raleigh: Visions for an urban landscape in 2030
Planning Director Mitch Silver sees a 21st-century city
By Bob Geary

The most important element in a comprehensive plan, says Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver, is the vision statement. You pick a point in the future—2030 in this case. You determine your desired outcome: What do you want your city to look like? Then you write down the policies that will make it so, draw a land-use map to go with them and adopt zoning codes to steer it. Pretty dry.

But it wasn't dry at all when an energized Silver described his own vision for Raleigh at last month's meeting of the Special Transit Advisory Commission (STAC), a 29-member regional body studying whether—and how—to graft a rail and bus system onto the fast-growing Triangle. Silver told them transit "is not an option, it's a necessity" if Raleigh and its neighbors are to remain economically competitive.

"All great cities have great transit," he declared.

But to make transit work, Raleigh will also need growth management, Silver continued. Raleigh's new comprehensive plan, expected to take shape by 2009, will emphasize both: City leaders are intent on changing development patterns from strictly suburban to newly urban—and on designating specific transit corridors where it's possible to create the dense, but also walkable, bikeable places that appeal to young folks and empty nesters, too.

Raleigh's been looking at possible streetcar routes, Silver said, rapid-fire. It's getting into matters of "public realm." It's going "multi-modal." It's hoping the region will go that way with it.

This extract should give you an idea of the places this story goes. By far my favorite quote is this.

"When I took this job," Silver concluded, slowing his cadence for emphasis, "everybody said, 'Please, we don't want to be Atlanta.' What's ironic is that we seem to be making all the same mistakes as Atlanta did. But the good news is, we still have time to correct our mistakes."

Be sure to visit the Indy for the full story. Bob Geary is one of our best local journalists.

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