Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If I Had a Billion Dollars

As I've already mentioned, I'm one of those people who just sits around thinking up ideas for remaking the world without actually having the where-with-all to bring my ideas to fruition. That said, today I'm casting my focus solely on my hometown, Raleigh, NC.

First on the agenda is to remake the east side (not pictured) of Downtown. Right now, the area is largely a slum for the city's poorest black and Hispanic residents. Up until now, all Downtown revitalization efforts have pretty much ignored everything from Person Street eastward, and even the Comprehensive Plan doesn't seem as ambitious (more to the point, it lacks the specificity of detail that is present in the plan for other areas of the city) about this area as I would have expected. Personally, I would just start bulldozing the slums and rebuilding them as efficient, attractive, environmentally conscious, multi-use facilities which are affordable and give the residents a greater sense of self-worth and encourage them to get out of the lower class.

I would begin by hosting an architectural design competition among the students from the NC State College of Design. The designers whose plans are selected for construction would receive their full tuition paid for as well as real world architectural experience. Whenever possible, some of the east side residents would be hired and trained to assist in construction. After all, one's sense of pride in a project increases when he/she has been able to build it with their own hands.

While construction commenced, I would work with Shaw University's Department of Business and Public Administration to create an extensive series of business training seminars for the area residents which would help them develop small business proposals for the ground-level retail space once construction was complete. I would also establish a trust fund to provide seed loans for the small business start-ups, with the ultimate goal of attracting other local/state investors to contribute. It is my belief that, once the residents see other people are willing to invest in their futures, the people living on the verge of poverty will start to see themselves as having real value and potential, and their enhanced self-esteem will begin to radiate through the community.

One pet project of mine among the construction would be the creation of a vertical farming facility which would also house an on site grocery store/produce market. Currently, Downtown Raleigh is severely lacking an actual grocery store, so all the people in Downtown have to travel elsewhere (mostly by car) to buy their food. This facility would help alleviate that need to use fossil fuel while also creating more jobs in the Downtown area. And it would be cool to eat a tomato for lunch which had been picked fresh that morning on the fourth floor! Additionally, the food produced in the facility would be organically grown, and more affordable since there would be no transportation costs to consider in the price. Further, having easier (by foot or by bicycle) access to fresh produce will help create a healthier lifestyle for all the residents of Downtown but especially the impoverished who tend to eat poor quality, nutritionally absent, processed foods which are currently more easily accessed and afforded.

My expectation is that, after I had brought the economically depressed east side to vibrancy, enhanced the welfare of its citizens, given them a sense of pride and ownership of their surroundings, and made the area safe to walk or bike, I would eventually make back my money, and then some. Of course, all of this requires people skills, which I lack in abundance. However, with a billion dollars, I think I could convince Julie and her husband, Andrew, as well as Osterberg and his wife, Andrea, all of whom HAVE the necessary people skills, to come work for me and help me accomplish all of this. Afterward, I would begin to turn my attention to Raleigh's transportation woes. But, that's a discussion for a later day.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

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