Downtown Raleigh experiences retail boom
Posted April 14
Updated April 15
Raleigh, N.C. — Forty-seven new storefront businesses opened in downtown Raleigh in 2016, but with the majority of new businesses being restaurants and bars, the city has struggled to attract retail to the downtown area in recent years.
Christine Brenner was determined to write her own success story. Her children’s book shop has only been open for one week and it’s already drawing crowds.
Brenner said she didn’t consider setting up shop anywhere but downtown Raleigh.
“We love the energy down here. It has exciting restaurants. It just has a great vibe down here,” she said.
“We’ve added, over the last three years, 25 new stores which is great and, just this spring, we’ve added five new stores, including a pop-up store, so retail is actually trending up right now,” said Bill King with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
One of the things driving retail growth is residential growth. Currently, 7,000 call downtown Raleigh home, but that number is expected to increase to 10,000 by 2020.
“Now we’re starting to get it where there’s traffic day, night, weekday, weekend,” King said.
Just two years ago, while plenty of restaurants and bars were moving downtown, city leaders were so concerned about the lack of retail that they formed a task force.
Since then, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, a nonprofit group that works to revitalize the downtown area, has worked to recruit retailers to the city center.
The alliance has facilitated discussions between landlords and retailers. Along with the city, the group has created and promoted grants to help businesses get the doors open.
“So, our vacancy rate is pretty low right now. We think it’s a little over 6 percent,” King said.
With few empty storefronts left, King said new mixed-use development will open up space for the possibility of even more retail.
“I hope more people feel inspired to come downtown. It’s a great place to be,” Brenner said.
Brenner said she believes the next chapter for downtown Raleigh retail will be a good one.
King said that while they have gotten some inquiries from national retailers, they are focused on bringing locally owned businesses to the downtown area.