City leaders agree that Downtown Crossing is on the verge of fully realizing its potential, which is why Suffolk University welcomed a panel of experts today to air thoughts on how the bustling district can transform into a new destination to live, work and let loose.

 

Panelists at this morning's Building Boston 2030 tossed around suggestions like reducing panhandling, expanding public transportation to the area, refurbishing buildings, and encouraging businesses to stay open later.

 

"I think the opportunities in this district are as fantastic as anywhere," said Howard Elkus, panelist and co-founder of Elkus Manfredi Architects.

 

Communication and collaboration with residents within the district is key to its expansion, according to Rosemarie Sansone, a panelist and President of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District Corporation.

 

"One of the ways that we can screw up is if we don't continue listening to them," she said.

In the last few years, the city has seen the revitalization of the district, with three historic theaters planting themselves on Washington Street, and the creation of more than 1,500 new jobs since 2008.

And that's not all.

"Seven Hundred units of housing are under construction, and we have an active Business Improvement District that is committed to strengthening the neighborhood," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said of the district. "With the addition of the $615 million Millenium Tower planned for the Filene's site, this historic area is poised for a true renaissance."

Shannon Emerson Finks, a partner at Petit Robert Central, a downtown bistro, is psyched the city is not only focusing on growing the district, but letting everyone in on their vision.

"I think this is great that they're trying to rebuild the district. I'd love to see Downtown Crossing become more of a destination, especially at night," Finks said.

Greg Selkoe, head of the grassroots organization Future Boston Alliance, which reduces restrictions on Hub bars, entertainment venues, and cultural organizations said of this morning's forum: "Any discussion or dialogue about this is great. We think that Downtown Crossing is an incredible opportunity that has been missed in last 20 years in terms of what can happen there. I think we can finally start making real progress."