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Raleigh tries to direct people to businesses near site of downtown fire

Posted August 7

— Some businesses in downtown Raleigh are still feeling the heat from a massive fire that tore through the area almost five months ago, so the city is trying to steer folks their way.

The Metropolitan Apartment went up in flames on March 16. In addition to destroying the unfinished apartment building on West Jones Street, the five-alarm fire – the largest in Raleigh in 90 years – damaged nine nearby buildings.

Sections of Jones, Lane and Harrington streets have been closed since the fire for demolition, cleanup and rebuilding and might not fully reopen until the end of the year or early 2018.

Owners of businesses in the area say many people think they also have shut down, or customers don't know how to get to them because of the road closures.

Ada Hoffman said Clouds Brewing, at 126 N. West St., is losing $1,500 to $2,000 a day in sales.

"Lunch is hurting us most. We've lost virtually all our foot traffic," Hoffman said.

Jonathan Seelbinder, the owner of Little City Brewing + Provisions, which opened last September at 400 W. North St., said his business is struggling to build a customer base, and street closures that make the brewpub difficult to find haven't helped.

"The early business is what's been tragically affected because it's completely cut us of from that part of town," Seelbinder said. "Numbers-wise, we were just starting to pick our head up out of the water, but we're down 30, 40, 50 percent where we should be right now."

Raleigh leaders recently put a flashing sign on Capital Boulevard into downtown: "West St. Business Open. Use Detour Route."

They also placed orange detour signs on sidewalks in the area to guide pedestrians to areas they might think are inaccessible.

One lane of Lane Street is expected to reopen to traffic, and the street would also be open for pedestrians, late next week, a city spokesman said.

Authorities have been unable to determine the cause of the March fire, which did an estimated $50 million worth of damage{{/a}}.

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