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Businesses Continue To Flock To Downtown Raleigh

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RALEIGH — The Downtown Raleigh Alliance says growth in the area has been explosive. As a result,Raleigh'sskyline is getting ready for a whole new look.

Betsy Hunt knows that location and timing are everything. She opened her novelty store,Sweet Tea and Grits, in Raleigh's City Market a little more than two years ago and has benefited from the revitalization efforts.

"The excitement is when something new comes along and something else doesn't close," Hunt says. "It's been wonderful."

Sweet Tea and Grits is just one of 65 new businesses to move into the downtown area in the last three years; nearly half of those set up shop this past year.

Steve Lewis, an investor, bought the old Raleigh Building on Fayetteville Street Mall six months ago. Despite renovations, the building has an 80 percent occupancy rate.

"You can just see and feel the energy as you walk downtown," Lewis says.

He says the advantages of doing business downtown versus in Research Triangle Park are painfully clear.

"There's very little traffic to get downtown when you think about the parking lot on Interstate 40 you have to sit in to get to the (Research Triangle) Park," Lewis says.

However, it takes more than just businesses to sustain the growth. In the last year, 165 new condominiums and townhouses were completed, adding new faces to Raleigh's changing landscape.

"Finally, people are looking at downtown Raleigh and saying, 'Hey, there's all this underutilized building stock and these underdeveloped parcels of land,'" says Errol Frailey, President of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. "That's the reason you're beginning to see more and more interest here." The addition of world-class facilities like the BTI Performing Arts Center andExploriswill help in the effort to attract more people to the capital city.


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