Settled in 1710 by German Palatines and Swiss Colonists, New Bern became a major port and mercantile center because of its protected waters and lack, of tidal fluctuation. Its importance as a port declined, however, with the advent of railways and improved roads during the early 1900s. The central business district grew slowly; later, a shopping mall attracted merchants to the outskirts of the city. The viability of the commercial heart of the community was threatened, and the tax base eroded as more stores became vacant. Recognizing the importance of downtown New Bern and the architectural and historical heritage of the older parts of the city, the community began taking steps to solve some of these problems. The following narrative describes several ways the New Bern Planning and Community Development Department became a part of the downtown revitalization process.