Please see the Independent for the complete article:
Imagine Raleigh without sprawl
18 MAR 2009 • by Bob Geary, rjgeary (at) mac (dot) com
In the run-up to this week's public hearing on Raleigh's draft comprehensive plan, the advice to city leaders from a stream of visiting experts has been remarkably unified. Success, experts say, depends on taking city life "back to the future."
The era of suburban sprawl is ending, these planners maintain, not simply because of high gas prices, but because it is fundamentally unsustainable. As Christopher Leinberger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., put it in a recent talk, the more "drivable suburban" neighborhoods a city allows, the lower the quality of life becomes for everyone living in them. The fastest-growing market now, said Leinberger, a developer, is for "walkable urban" places: the kind Raleigh doesn't have, yet needs to create, that are modeled on what cities were before cars took them over.
Such places are far more complicated to build and manage than the suburbs, Leinberger said. But done right, these areas improve as they grow. They have more cultural diversity and housing options—and with public transit, the chance for people to save money by owning fewer cars, or none. If Raleigh fails to create them, Leinberger warned, "You will be left in the 20th century."
The question for Raleigh is where these walkable urban places should be. ...
Hope you will be at the Comp Plan Hearing tonight: details follow, courtesy of Bob's article:
- What: A public hearing on Raleigh's draft comprehensive plan
- Where: Raleigh City Hall, 222 W. Hargett St.
- When: Thursday, March 19, 6:30 p.m.
- What to expect: Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver will present the draft plan, a blueprint for the city's growth over the next 20 years
- What's next: After the public hearing, the plan goes to the city planning commission. It is expected the commission will consider the plan this spring, then sent it back to City Council, which could adopt the plan as early as June.
- More info: Read about the process at Planning Raleigh 2030: tinyurl.com/6l8myd
- Learn more about the plan for the city's neighborhoods: tinyurl.com/dldeyc
- Leinberger's analysis and the other experts' jibes with the basic goal of the comprehensive plan to curb sprawl and guide development into designated "growth centers." Yet it also raises the issue of whether the plan identifies too many centers—including some in places that can never be urban.
At the same conference, Mindy Fullilove, professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said true urbanism is characterized by a sense of connectedness that allows people of diverse backgrounds and incomes to nonetheless feel that they live in the same community and share an identity with the same "great place."
At a time of rapid upheaval in the world, Fullilove said, people yearn for the kind of stability and belonging that existed—before urban renewal cut through it—in the Hill district of Pittsburgh where her parents grew up. It was a relatively poor, predominantly African-American community of row houses, storefronts and apartments. There were no high-rises, nothing fancy. But it was a place where people believed "whatever problems you have ... you can get together and solve them."