Downtown Raleigh wants to know what the rest of the city thinks

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2013 

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    Here’s the schedule for the “listening sessions” aimed at gathering residents’ thoughts about downtown Raleigh:

    North Raleigh: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Millbrook Exchange Park and Community Center, 1905 Spring Forest Road

    Southeast Raleigh: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Chavis Park and Community Center, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

    Southwest Raleigh: 6 to 7:30 p.m. July 17 at Carolina Pines Park and Community Center, 2305 Lake Wheeler Road

    Downtown Raleigh: 1 to 2:30 p.m. July 18 at City of Raleigh Urban Design Center, 220 Fayetteville St., Suite 200

— City leaders get plenty of positive feedback from downtown workers and residents about the area’s revitalization, but what does the rest of Raleigh think about the city center?

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance wants to gather those opinions before it begins updating the district’s long-range plan. And the group is particularly interested in hearing from Raleigh residents who aren’t downtown every day. Because while the city has spent millions to make downtown a destination, Raleigh’s more northern residents live 18 miles away from Fayetteville Street. They can reach downtown Durham nearly as easily as downtown Raleigh.

“The goal is to obtain people’s perceptions of downtown – and not just self-selected people who love downtown and live downtown ... so we can make it a favored destination for everybody,” said Trisha Hasch, a planner in the city’s Urban Design Center.

The center has teamed up with the downtown alliance to host four “listening sessions” starting this week. Only one of them will be held downtown, with the rest scheduled throughout the city. The meetings will ask people what activities prompt them to drive downtown and what their favorite places and events are.

The listening sessions follow a survey conducted last month, garnering 1,000 responses from “the furthest reaches of Raleigh,” Hasch said. An intern is coding those surveys into concrete statistics, which will be released in an August report.

So far, Hasch said, the responses have been mostly positive. “People love downtown and love the events,” she said. “They think the public spaces in downtown are beautiful.”

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has worked hard in recent years to combat misconceptions about downtown. When many thought the area was unsafe, the group hired the red-shirted downtown ambassadors. Now they’re working to ensure visitors know where to find parking.

DRA leaders “are constantly trying to engage people,” Hasch said.

With survey stats charting what people think of downtown Raleigh in 2013, the next phase of downtown planning will start in January.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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