Beneath the myriad accolades and honors awarded to the city of Raleigh, exists its innovative and exceptionally accessible Raleigh Urban Design Center. This past summer, pools of Raleigh’s most engaged denizens sacrificed their lunch breaks for a higher cause; the city form. On five separate occasions, the Urban Design Center hosted one-hour civic discussions on a variety of topics concerning Raleigh’s urban design. Topics covered were “Creating Urban Form Where There is None,” “Deja New: Historic Fabric in the Urban Context,” “Building a Walkable City,” “Creative Corridors in Winston-Salem: Where Transportation Innovation and Public Art Meet,” and “Housing in the 21st Century: Design, Financing, Strategic Partnerships, and Return on Investment.” The city’s leading architects, engineers, landscape architects, and urban planners were all in helpful attendance.
How illuminating the series was. Not one individual qualm was left uncared for. Very few concerns presented by the audience were not already of interest by the planning and design commissions. Development in the city that had long been interpreted as arbitrary by its residents was revealed to be carefully orchestrated planning by the Urban Design Center. The series delved comprehensively into the fundamental and essential elements of Raleigh and compared its progression to those of higher profile cities. Frequently compared were Toronto, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Asheville.
What the lunchtime forums ultimately accomplished, albeit many things, was not solely the informing of its population regarding Raleigh’s contemporary urban design issues. What was overall achieved was educating the citizenry as to why Raleigh’s contemporary urban design issues were important enough to be informed of. The forums, through covering the whole of the city and its urban organization, related even the most arcane ordinance in Raleigh to the well-being of any of its residents. Each lunch forum was endowed with greater attendance than the one previous to it. As autumn is slowly settling in, the citizens of Raleigh are no doubt looking forward to next summer.
How may a citizenry be further united with its planning legislation?
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