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The Raleigh-Portland Parallel

The Raleigh-Portland Parallel

In just under two decades, the once soft-spoken city of Raleigh, North Carolina will increase its population by about half to reach the 600,000 citizen prediction prophesied by the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. This rapid progress is merely symptomatic of the larger growth occurring in the tri-county metro (Wake, in which Raleigh is located, Orange, and

Bicycle Road Sharing Sharrows

In just under two decades, the once soft-spoken city of Raleigh, North Carolina will increase its population by about half to reach the 600,000 citizen prediction prophesied by the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. This rapid progress is merely symptomatic of the larger growth occurring in the tri-county metro (Wake, in which Raleigh is located, Orange, and Durham counties), whose population is expected to practically double to 1.9 million in almost the same time period. Compare this to the congruent success of Portland, Oregon, whose population growth underwent a similar trend in a similar time period.

Any two-minute sketch from the satiric television comedy series Portlandia can somewhat, however exaggeratedly, accurately portray the sustainable architecture and urban design of Portland. The show also revealingly lampoons the hyperbolically progressive attitude of the city’s denizens, presumably responsible for its uniquely smart growth. It is this spirit of the city, which ultimately carves its physical contours, which Raleigh is following suit. Albeit statistically confirming, the predicted census data is not the critical factor for the parallel between Raleigh and Portland. What is significant to their relationship is in fact the mutual direction the two cities are progressing towards.

While Raleigh can hardly be said to boast the eco-friendly zeitgeist of Portland, it is certainly making steps in the right direction. A review of the Sustainable Raleigh’s platform attests to this, as well as the website’s area map. Various, grassroots projects have been popping up around Raleigh as well. City beautification movements are developing, urban farms are planting their seeds, public transportation is roving, and alternative energy is being explored; all echoes of a city embracing contemporary New Urbanist principles.

Urban planners, architects, and engineers should all leave a watchful eye on Raleigh.

Many other American cities may be described as "in parallel" with Portland, employing these loose indicators. Is the smart growth of Raleigh unique in its similarity to Portland, or is this the trend America is moving towards?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Evan Comen is an undergraduate at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a B.S. in both Economics and Environmental Studies and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning. A philosophical outlook towards education led his career aspirat...

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