The city of Columbus might have tabled its controversial streetcar proposal, but transportation is still a pressing need, say the local experts who will converge for a What Columbus Needs conversation tonight.

The city of Columbus might have tabled its controversial streetcar proposal, but transportation is still a pressing need, say the local experts who will converge for a What Columbus Needs conversation tonight.

When all four were asked independently what they think Columbus needs, each listed transportation among their top concerns. Two voiced their continued support for a streetcar that would connect the Clintonville or Campus areas to German Village.

Improving walkability was similarly important to panelists Megan Blackford, Kacey Campbell, Rajesh Lahoti and Jeff Mathes, three of whom live in the 43215 zip code.

The four will continue the discussion, and tackle audience members' questions, when they meet at Crew Stadium's Huntington Club tonight to address many of the topics covered in Alive's What Columbus Needs survey.

The forum will be introduced and moderated by Young Professionals of Columbus President Kristen Jensen and Alive Managing Editor Brian Lindamood.

Columbus Chamber's Business AfterHours, a relaxed event for socializing and networking, will follow.

What does Columbus need?

Jeff Mathes, developer and owner of Barrio and Due Amici restaurants

- "Coming south down High Street from Barrio to Due Amici, a bunch of those buildings have windows that are falling out, and there's no incentive for those business owners to improve those buildings. And there needs to be better and real incentives for small businesses to fill those spaces."

- "To be the big city that we should be, we need one of the big three professional sports. I want to see an NBA team here."

Megan Blackford, deputy director of the Columbus Public Service Department

- "In the city's public service department, we're all on the same page that we need to put more focus on alternative modes of transportation. We call it 'everything but the car.'"

- "I think by investing in your core, Downtown, that carries throughout the city."

Kacey Campbell, promotions coordinator for the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District

- "I think what would improve Columbus is a better system for connecting our neighborhoods and our suburbs, specifically, to Downtown. ... I don't know if it's a streetcar, I don't know if it's light rail, I don't know what it is."

- "People tell me parking lots and meters Downtown are hard to find and too expensive."

Rajesh Lahoti, owner of Union Cafe and Havana and developer with Arms Properties

- "I think we need something signature. I think we need to get behind the mayor and push for light rail. I think we should take Goodale Park and totally redo the park, something functional and architectural."

- "We have to get everyone to understand that the Short North and German Village are Downtown. Let's bring them in. Once that entire strip is pedestrian, I think natural development will take its course."