Judging by Raleigh’s “vision plan” for the future, city council members and planners are ready to dream big.
Among the dreams: possibly a new sports arena-stadium in downtown Raleigh. This could be a great idea indeed, providing a venue for everything from amateur sports to Carolina Hurricanes hockey to N.C. State basketball. Many downtown advocates still mourn the fact that the Hurricanes/Wolfpack arena went up next to Carter-Finley Stadium instead of downtown.
Yes, downtown survived quite nicely and has boomed since, but what would have happened with the arena ... well, who knows?
The city’s looking at big dreams like that one, and right down to plans to rent bikes to people to move about the city, a practice now common in other cities and in Europe. More access to bikes would fit well with the city’s expansive network of greenways and the recent addition of more bike lanes on city streets.
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Running through this crafting of a vision is a theme that public and private interests have to work together. Though the city has limited power in telling private developers what they can do, it can encourage developers to find gold in redeveloping historic areas and keeping them historic, as some have already done in downtown Raleigh.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who has kept the council focused on the vision plan, was the driving force behind acquiring a major new part of the Raleigh of tomorrow – the Dorothea Dix property. Now that open land must be shaped into an impressive city park.
So here’s a plan that includes the little stuff that makes a difference, such as sidewalks and bicycle trails, and the big stuff such as working with developers to create neighborhoods that make sense.
And one beauty of the plan is that it included so many people in the planning. That helps build support as the city converts the vision into reality. Even those who may disagree with the final decisions will feel they had their say.
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. Take this sports arena. Such places have become economic catalysts in many cities where they have spurred retail and residential construction. It could have happened with a downtown loacation for the new Hurricanes/Wolfpack arena in the late 1990s, but it could happen still.