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Study: Downtown Raleigh Needs More Retail Variety

Posted October 26, 2007

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— Downtown Raleigh needs a more diverse shopping district to attract more shoppers, according to a new city study that claims downtown merchants are missing out on $32 million in consumer spending.

Kris Larson, a senior planner at Raleigh's Urban Design Center who authored the study, said shoppers are spending as much as $32 million elsewhere that could be spent downtown if the retail mix in the central business district was updated.

"This is discretionary spending, (things) that they buy every day – stuff like food, stuff like a hairbrush, stuff like shampoo. Stuff they're going to buy somewhere versus the retail mix of downtown and what that's projected to generate in terms of revenue," Larson said.

"I would love to see a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's or some kind of grocery store come in – an anchor store down here," said Tasha Holden, manager of Eye Care Center on Fayetteville Street. "There's not a lot, especially on this street."

Danny Nesrallah, who owns America's Pita Grill on Fayetteville Street, said he's skeptical downtown can succeed without changes.

"We opened the street for parking, right? Did we not? Nothing's happening. I've gotten $365 in tickets. I own a business on the mall. There are too many issues and too many things that were overlooked," Nesrallah said. "(We need) anything that's going to draw people down here on weekends. Come Saturday or Sunday, it's a ghost town."

Making downtown a shopping hub has failed before, but the city is working with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to attract a more diverse group of retailers to the area.

"We go back to the late 1700s as a governmental town, (but) people didn't live in governmental buildings," Larson said. "Now, we've got this influx of 3,000 units. People moving back to downtown, that creates a lot of demand."

"We're excited about what's happening down here," Holden said. "I think Raleigh's ready for it. I think we need it."

52 Comments

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  • gpd Oct 28, 2007

    What downtown needs is to focus on being friendly to people who don't live downtown. Parking should be the first focus, because as it is, the parking problem is first and forefront. Put in all the retail you want, but if people can't get into the stores how will they stay open.

    Downtown is for downtowners...we all know that.

  • WRALSUCKS Oct 27, 2007

    What it needs, is some parking and a bulldozer...

  • brassy Oct 27, 2007

    "Retail district"? Do you have any idea how many stores a person has to drive past just to get to the beltline? Capital Blvd is a 10mi strip mall as it is. Why would anyone ever bother?

  • LocalYokel Oct 27, 2007

    spend spend spend. Americans spend too much and don't save enough as is and we don't need more shopping (although a wholePaycheck market would be nice idea). We have enough malls and stores in raleigh now if you just want to waste your money on non-durable goods. We need more cultural activities downtown. More live music. Some good, non-smoking, restaurants. Some events after work and activities to draw people in that are not as superficial as 'shopping'.

  • I Hate Hippies Oct 27, 2007

    I agree with Steve. The first thing downtown needs is a Caterpillar D9 and then a fresh start from scratch. Poor planning has landed this city into the cluster muck that it is, future planning like he describes is needed in order to prepare for growth.

    Throw in some capitalism, which we all know socialist loving liberals hate, and downtown is a desired mecca instead of a slum riddled, anti-tourist city that exists now.

  • Steve Crisp Oct 27, 2007

    But it's not good enough just to spruce it up; we need to tear it down and start over.

    For instance, take the News and Observer building. It's been there forever, but it is a single purpose, squat building that is taking up an enormous amount of real estate better used as condos with ground floor retail or hotel space. And the entire side of the building looks like an industrial area in the heart of downtown.

    They need to add another 30 stories to that structure or just go somewhere else. There is absolutely no excuse for having a building less than 10 stories in a downtown area.

    Why are freight trains rolling directly through downtown? Those tracks need to be moved so that they skirt the city center. They make no sense now that there is no longer any manufacturing/industry/agricultural processing down there.

    We have car storage lots downtown. Who came up with that brilliant idea that does nothing but waste space?

  • Frank Downtown Oct 27, 2007

    Some things that would help: The creation of a transportation hub- where the Amtrak station is now should be come a combination Amtrak/Bus station so everything is in one spot. The old bus stations on Moores Square should become housing. All of the utilties - powerlines, ect - should be put underground through out the entire city. They city also needs to offer grants and low cost loans to building/ business owner to fix up the buidlings and clean them up. And of course, parking, parking, parking!! And I dont understand how this 25yr olds can afford the $255k one bedroom, 500 sq foot condos and the $5 martinis and the $40k Eddie Bauer SUVs?

  • Steve Crisp Oct 27, 2007

    To PikeQueen:

    You don't go downtown because it is dirty and grimy and has green slime mold and drunks/addicts passed out on benches when they are not accosting you for spare change. You don't go down there because of the faint smell of urine which gets stronger the closer you get to the front of the magistrates office. You do not go down there because there are metal grates all over the place that even if they fit correctly, trap your heels. You don't go down there because the idiots who run this city did not think to put any parking decks which didn't require you to walk down a side street to get to Fayetteville Street itself. You don't go there because the perception of getting robbed is not worth the time to go to what little exists at your disposal.

    And as long as they continue to play Mickey Mouse games with downtown, nothing will change. It can be as beautiful as they can make it, but when you worry about AIDS and Hep C turning airborne, they need to start tossing people out.

  • PikeQueen Oct 27, 2007

    I only visit Downtown every 5 years.That's when my Insurance Co.ask me to have my Jewelry reappraised.I can't stand that place.

  • nomorenc Oct 27, 2007

    And since you brought up the convention center. who would ever consider raleigh a hot spot for conventions. One would think, after the last attempt of a convention center here, we would have learned our lesson. I really don't think Raleigh will attract conventions away from cities like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Those cities have 1 thing Raleigh does not have and does not seem able to achieve, that would be some kind of "draw" to the area. The idea of a convention is to have something to do. In Raleigh, if you come to a convention, you get to sit around your hotel or walk around downtowm, yippy.

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