01/14/11 — DGDC speaker: Downtown should be an 'experience'

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DGDC speaker: Downtown should be an 'experience'

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 14, 2011 1:46 PM

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Mitchell Silver, of the Raleigh Department of City Planning and Urban Development, speaks Thursday as the keynote speaker at the ninth annual speaker's forum held at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Goldsboro.

He talked about what the future of America would look like -- a dramatically larger minority population, an unprecedented number of senior citizens, a decreased tax base.

But perhaps the most relevant information Raleigh City Planner Mitchell Silver provided to the attendees of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp.'s annual speaker's forum involved what a downtown should be -- how to attract tourists and local residents alike to a city's core.

"(People) go (downtown) because there's an experience," Silver said. "That's when downtown starts to explode."

Silver encouraged local leaders to continue to plan for streetscape improvements, parks and other infrastructure that might draw people to downtown.

And he encouraged residents to embrace spending money on new development.

"A successful downtown means ... our taxes will be lower," Silver said, adding that as you build more on less land, it yields the highest financial return.

And he showed examples of how those who were against such measures have been proven wrong -- namely, the Fayetteville Street redesign project in Raleigh that has led to more than $3 billion in development over the past five years and drawn more than 100,000 downtown during the city's official reopening of the strip.

"We're no longer simply planners," Silver said of himself and his peers. "We're now in the business of building great places."