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Task force will look to bring more retail to downtown Raleigh

Although downtown Raleigh features plenty of things to do - from taking in a concert to eating at one of dozens of restaurants - it's far from a shopping destination.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Although downtown Raleigh features plenty of things to do – from taking in a concert to eating at one of dozens of restaurants – it’s far from a shopping destination.

James Hill, a co-owner of High Cotton, a clothing retail store on Hargett Street, says there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to retail.

“What I think is needed is critical mass retail, and what I mean by that is door after door of shopping,” he said.

Raleigh city leaders have similar concerns, so the City Council has created a task force that will examine what it takes to attract retailers to downtown.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin anticipates a challenge.

“You have retailers who are telling us they can’t find the space, they can’t afford it,” she said. “We don’t have enough density downtown to really help them be successful in business.”

The Retail Task Force will include City of Raleigh staff as well as representatives from Shop Local Raleigh, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Hillsborough Street Community Services Corporation, the Midtown Raleigh Alliance, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and small-business retail owners.

The group will research retail opportunities and consider “both physical changes as well as policy changes needed to address challenges currently impacting the retail climate in Raleigh,” the city said on its website May 19. Issues could include the consumer appeal of Raleigh, the ease of shopping, retail recruitment and the ability to attract retailers.

Although the retail situation isn’t ideal, it has come a long way in recent years. According to a recent report from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, retail business downtown has increased by about 35 percent in the last four years.

Pam Blondin, owner of DECO Raleigh, a variety shop also on Hargett Street, has been open for about three years. She says friends tried to convince her to open in Cameron Village, a popular shopping center at the corner of Oberlin Avenue and Clark Street.

“I live downtown, my former job I worked was right downtown, and everyone I knew just felt like there wasn’t enough retail down here,” she said.

Blondin says she thinks business will beget business.

“It’s almost like you need to get that one first surge where people start feeling comfortable,” she said. “What we need to start doing is connecting the innovation, the creativity, the good business minds.”


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