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Downtown Raleigh Building On Its Strengths To Become High-Tech Haven

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RALEIGH — Can downtown Raleigh transform itself into a high-tech mecca? City leaders and developers say "Yes" and are developing a strategy to make it happen.

Downtown Raleigh already has many attributes, but they must be strengthened.

The needs of high-tech businesses, such as high-speed and high-capacity telecommunications, are already in place in many buildings and are on the way to others.

Techies across the country like the excitement and convenience of downtown digs.

"Downtown, with its existing building stock, with its activity and potential to increase that activity, is attractive to them," says Vernon George, a technical development consultant.

Trendy restaurants and clubs, cultural activity and nearby, affordable housing lure Gen-Xers who drive high-tech business.

There is plenty of warehouse space which may be available on the western edge of the central business district. For instance, Dillion Supply on West Street, which offers great opportunities for high-tech businesses.

"They need building space that has high ceilings and is flexible and is available at relatively low prices," says George.

Architect Andrew Leager sees the trend and makes more modest-sized furniture for smaller living quarters in his downtown Raleigh studio.

Leager is already seeing more people on the streets of downtown -- young people looking for good times and good jobs.

"It's just a matter of who's going to gulp hard and take the big plunge and make these developments," he says.

If the strategy works, Raleigh could join Austin, Texas and other cities that are re-creating their downtowns as high-tech havens.

Change is already under way, with 24 high-tech companies currently calling downtown Raleigh home.

Photographer:Gil Hollingsworth


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