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Will Businesses Head Downtown If Raleigh Officials Reopen Fayetteville Street?

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Downtown Raleigh will get a major face lift.

The Raleigh City Council approved a $5 to $8 million project that turns Fayetteville Street Mall back into Fayetteville Street.

The plan calls for three blocks of the mall to be torn up and replaced with a two-lane street with parking on the sides.

However, many question whether businesses will head back to the downtown area

For most of the last century, Fayetteville Street was just that -- a wide street.Following a trend, and other cities, Raleigh leaders turned the street into a mall.

Frank Jolly Ragsdale's family business, Jolly Jewelers, was located for 94 years where the First Union Tower now stands. He said creating a two-lane street is not the way to go.

"To tear up Fayetteville Street Mall as it is now and to put two lanes of traffic and some parking spaces down here is clearly not the solution," he said.

Others like Errol Frailey of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance claim reopening the street will revitalize downtown.

"That is new businesses, perhaps people living above some of those stores," Frailey said. "We're even going to be looking at the possibility of attracting a library to the location. Maybe movie theaters, music venues, and restaurants with cafe tables out on the wide sidewalks. So it's really going to be all about what you do beyond opening the street and providing some parking."

Ragsdale said parking would be a major factor if Fayetteville Street is turned into a two-lane street.

"It can't be five blocks away. It can't be downtown farther to the east on Lane Street. It has to be here. It has to be free and it has to be safe," he said.

Some buildings in the area have already been improved. One block south of the project, the old Belk store is being turned into a mixed use building with condos, office and retail space.

Time will tell whether opening just a portion of Fayetteville street to traffic again will boost downtown's future.

If the plan works, there is a possibility that the remaining block and a half of what remains of Fayetteville Street Mall could be reopened. Some want the Raleigh Civic and Convention Center torn down and replaced with a larger one that would make room for a slightly longer Fayetteville Street.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, about 200 cities built pedestrian-friendly malls, but now, they are almost non-existent.

A new documentary on the fall of the pedestrian mall finds only five of the pedestrian malls remain in the United States, including Raleigh's. However, that number will drop.

City leaders in Madison, Wisconsin voted to tear up their pedestrian mall. However, the pedestrian malls in Charlottesville, Va., Boulder, Colo. and Burlington, Vt. are thriving.


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