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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Winston-Salem Journal Article About Downtown Population

Planners hope to get input on population growth

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Over the past 10 years, downtown Winston-Salem has added restaurants and nightclubs, improved sidewalks to make them more pedestrian-friendly and increased police patrols to make visitors feel more at ease.
But perhaps the most important growth downtown has been the number of people who live there.
From 2000 to 2010, the number of people living downtown roughly doubled, from about 1,200 residents to about 2,500, U.S. census figures show. Forsyth County planners expect that over the next 20 years, the county could grow by 120,000 people. Downtown could end up being home to about 30,000 of those people, planners estimate.
"Given the limited amount of land we have to fit 120,0000 people, where do they think that additional 120,000 people should be distributed?" said Paul Norby, planning department director.
To deal with that growth, the City-County Planning Department is reworking its Legacy Plan, an overarching document that guides development for all of Forsyth County.
The department has built a website, www.legacy2030.com, where Forsyth County residents can give input about how the county grows. The department has also held a series of public meetings, at which people have discussed population growth and what they want Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and the smaller towns and cities in the county to look like in 20 years. The next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, focuses on three main areas: downtown Winston-Salem, the suburbs and neighborhoods outside downtown Winston-Salem, and the rural parts of Forsyth County.
Norby said Tuesday's meeting will include breakout sessions focusing on each of those areas. People who are interested in downtown living, for example, might join the downtown-centered session, or people who are interested in the suburbs — neighborhood sidewalks, say, or public playgrounds — might join the suburban session.
"We're hoping people that are interested in local food, farmland preservation and rural character will come and participate in our breakout sessions on that," he said. "We want to have people in groups helping us answer some questions, get some discussion going. What are the challenges, what are the goals? What is the vision for each area?"
The downtown area in particular could use creative ideas, Norby said. An additional 30,000 residents would need more apartments or condominiums or homes in an already dense area. Norby said there are buildings that could be rehabilitated, or new buildings could be built.
"We've got several hundred new housing units that are being added (already)," Norby said. "You've got a lot of room with just the existing buildings to add housing. … Then you've got places where you've got a lot of surface parking lots that could be developed that could have structured parking with housing wrapped around it."
Norby said city-county planners hope to have a draft of the new Legacy Plan by next summer. The plan will need to pass a series of public hearings, and will need approval from both the Winston-Salem City Council and the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners before it is enacted.
lgraff@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7279

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