Downtown Raleigh has lots of new businesses and new buildings, but an old number.
For years, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance has touted what it believed was the fact that 30,000 people work in downtown Raleigh. Yet, leaders there don't know where the number came from and how old it is.
“I feel comfortable guessing we are 50 percent underestimated and have been for some time,” said Kris Larson, deputy director of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
So now, its research staff is going through all the property records downtown, using big maps and making sure every square foot of building space is counted and every downtown employee accounted for. They are even contacting downtown employers to get exact figures on their work forces.
Downtown boosters said that an accurate figure is critical. It could help with public policy decisions, such as the need for public transit.
They also said a population number is key when retailers decide whether there is enough traffic to support opening downtown.
“Obviously, we want to make sure we understand the real picture of what downtown looks like, and when we are out recruiting companies and the small business for the street level, we want to make sure they understand really what the downtown community is comprised of,” said Larson.
New business owners said the revised number would be important to their growth.
“To know there were more people would be more enticing to start a business downtown,” said Casey Porn, manager of the Morning Times Coffee Shop. The shop opened about four months ago.
The study is about 80 percent complete, and already the number has surpassed the old 30,000 number.
With new construction and new companies locating downtown, leaders realize that even the new daytime population figures will change quickly. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance hopes to have the count completed by the beginning of January.