Local News

Vacant Restaurant Slows City Market's Bustle

Posted September 18, 2006 7:33 a.m. EDT

— As other sections of downtown come to life, City Market fades into the background as an entertainment destination in central Raleigh.

Four years ago, City Market was fully leased. Now, it has a 30 percent vacancy rate. Much of that is linked to the empty 14,000-square-foot Greenshields building.

The microbrewery and restaurant decided against reopening in City Market after a fire in August 2004, leaving the development without an anchor tenant.

Some remaining tenants said their business has fallen off by as much as 30 percent in recent years, and they said the lack of an anchor decreases foot traffic.

"The energy of people mingling around, and when the weather is nice, having people sitting outside and drinking their beers, just kind of wandering in and out of the stores (is missing)," said Brenda Lo-Griffin, who owns the Amazing Glaze pottery studio in City Market.

Downtown supporters met Monday to figure out how to fill the gaps in the development, which once was the main entertainment district downtown.

"It doesn't reflect well at all," Downtown Raleigh Alliance President Nancy Hormann said of the Greenshields vacancy. "We have an unrealistic landlord who believes he doesn't need to put anything into the space to improve it. Yet, he wants above-market-rate rents in that space."

The owner of City Market, who lives in California, has turned down a grocery store and at least three other credible tenants for the space, Hormann said.

York Properties Vice President George York, the leasing agent for City Market, said the Greenshields building is a hard space to rent. It's more space than most restaurants want and still needs a lot of work following the fire, he said.

But York said he realizes how the empty building looks to the community, and he is considering splitting the space or even opening it up to a group of small vendors.

"This is one of the premier retail buildings in downtown, and to have it vacant with everything positive going on downtown, it leaves a big question mark for a lot of folks," he said.