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More downtown Raleigh businesses seek walk-up traffic

Posted May 30, 2008

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— Some personal-service businesses moving into downtown Raleigh have spurned the appeal of a sidewalk storefront in favor of fixing up vacant second- and third-floor space.

Sisters Shawn Briscoe and Dana Hunter said they looked at plenty of available spaces downtown for their alter EGO salon before settling on a former second-floor office location on Hargett Street.

"When you come off the elevator, you're going to walk directly into the front desk," Hunter said.

"(We wanted) a space that's special and inviting – intimate but not exclusive – and that embodied our business plan," Briscoe said.

A second-floor space also works well for Adam Cave's new art gallery on Hargett Street.

"Our business is somewhat destination-oriented," Cave said. "Rather than showing art in a very generic clean space, all the funky floors I think help."

Price isn't a major factor in choosing the second- and third-floor spaces since rents are comparable to those paid by street-level tenants.

Holton Wilkerson, brokerage services manager for developer Empire Properties, said a yoga studio and clothing store also are planned for spaces above the downtown sidewalks.

"There was a time when people didn't really think that could fly in downtown Raleigh," Wilkerson said. "There's a finite amount of ground-level retail space that's available downtown, (and) it's an alternative to what's out there."

Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said he expects the trend to continue, although it doesn't work for every business. City officials are trying to encourage the development of "Site 1" next to the planned City Plaza downtown to include two floors of retail space in a small mall-like atmosphere.

"We believe that the days of being known as a government town are behind us," Silver said.

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