RALEIGH, N.C. — Plush condos, new salons and a grocery store are part of the new face of downtown Raleigh. City life is starting to take off, but there is a lot of work still to be done.
Downtown Raleigh is a city in transition from old to new, and many people have mixed opinions about it.
"I don't think making Fayetteville Street (Mall) a street is going to do anything. They say it will make a difference, but right now all we see is a mess," said Gail Spencer, who works in the downtown area.
"I own a business that I put down here two years ago, and it's been great to see it all happen," said downtown resident Mike Kerr.
At the new Progress Energy building, there is a burst of new businesses. A salon and coffee shop are opening on the ground floor of a high-rise condominium.
The downtown living boom started in 2003. Since then, 750 residential units have been built or are under construction with another 800 units in the works. The problem is retail space has yet to catch up. Only 12 new stores opened last year, with four more on the way.
In certain areas, downtown already has a lot going for it, like at at city market with the restaurants and shops, but city leaders say it needs more than that to keep the people who are living downtown, spending downtown.
"Everybody wants a movie theater and right now, we're getting a grocery store and that's a big deal for downtown living. But one by one, these things get checked off the list and all your needs are met," said Kristopher Larson, of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
"Little by little downtown in growing and it's going to help us out," says Mario Longo, owner of Vic's Ristorante Italiano.
More than 4,000 people live downtown right now. Downtown planners estimate the population will swell to 10,000 in 10 years.