Preparing for a better tomorrow today, that's the idea behind a special visit from volunteers from Urban Land Institute. From architects to engineers and city planners from around the country, all are taking part in a guided tour of the area with one goal in mind, revitalizing downtown.
"The issue is where to put the money so it has the greatest impact for the greatest good over the longest period of time," says ULI Advisory Panel Chairman Laurin McCracken. "Obviously, the result of that is money saved from somewhere else.
Funded by an $110,000 grant from the Riley Foundation, the group will come up with a plan on whether emphasis should be placed on retail, housing, entertainment or a combination.
According to city officials, one of the goals is to attract people from ALL income levels back to the downtown area. They say one of the initial steps in accomplishing this has been the Rosenbaum condominiums on 5th Street.
"The heart of any city is its downtown," says Mayor John Robert Smith. "Now we have an opportunity to see that that heart is beating and beating strongly. That's what the Urban Institute is going to help us do."
Throughout the week the panel will continue to survey the area and come up with a plan. Friday in a public meeting they will present their suggestions for a task which they call a challenge but not impossible.
"Every city has a different challenge," says McCracken. "The challenges here are significant but the potential is significant too."