The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wake County about 18 months ago, and the pandemic isn’t over yet.
Many businesses are still recovering from lower sales and other challenges.
But despite the pandemic, indications of growth continue in Downtown Raleigh.
At the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s State of Downtown event Sept. 9, DRA’s leader and community members painted a picture of continued growth while looking ahead to the future.
Here are some of the takeaways from the 2021 State of Downtown Raleigh report + event that shows where we are now:
New businesses are growing
Downtown Raleigh added 37 businesses in 2021, while only 3 have closed since April. This is an increase of 61% in the pace of new business openings and expansions compared to 2020.
Foot traffic is up, while some pivots here to stay
The Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s six pedestrian counters marked an increase since 2020. Pedestrian traffic is up 158% from June 2020 to July 2021.
Another pandemic pivot here to stay — for a while, at least — are the increased outdoor options.
Downtown Raleigh added eight parklets (fenced-in park-like spaces with seating), three pedlets (which create space on sidewalks for businesses) and one streetery (street + eatery).
A grant program administered by DRA with funds from Duke Energy helped 45 businesses invest in outdoor dining.
Food and beverage sales are up 215% from Q2 in 2020 (which included takeout only + Phase 2 distanced re-opening) to Q2 in 2021.
Large residential projects delivered, planned
Despite the pandemic, more residential project moved forward. In the largest apartment development to date, Peace Raleigh Apartments in Smoky Hollow opened in 2020 with 417 units.
The Platform, also from Kane Realty, is planned to have the largest number of apartment units in Downtown Raleigh yet, with 442 units.
Overall there are currently 7,914 residential units in Downtown Raleigh, with 5,002 in total planned. Rent grew 5.6% over the last year, now at an average $1,740/month.
More office space projects
Two large, noteworthy projects completed recently are Tower Two at Bloc and 421 N. Harrington in Smoky Hollow.
Both add shared public spaces, with Bloc’s “large urban courtyard” and Smoky Hollow’s outdoor pedestrian promenade, which recently started hosting pop-up events and markets.
Tower Two at Bloc, the companion tower to One Glenwood, includes 10 stories, 241,500 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail and parking. It finished in Q2.
421 N. Harrington, Smoky Hollow Phase II, includes 10 stories, 225,000 square feet of office space, 283 apartments, and 50,000 square feet of retail, completed in July.
In addition, Raleigh Crossing, at 301 Hillsborough St., is expected later this year, with Phase I including 19 stories, 287,250 square feet of office space and12,000 square feet of retail space.
Glenwood South grows, Fayetteville Street strategy
The core of Downtown Raleigh includes six main areas: The Seaboard & Person Street District, Glenwood South, Capital District, Warehouse District, Fayetteville Street District and Moore Square District.
Of note in the report, three areas saw the most growth or are identified as future strategies:
Glenwood South: This district saw large projects delivered in the last year. Smoky Hollow, with its new residential and office offerings, and Bloc are in Glenwood South.
Warehouse District: This district is seeing condo buildings making a comeback, with The Fairweather adding 45 new condominiums. It was the first downtown condo project since the 2008 recession, according to the report. Another planned condo project is The Lynde, coming with 32 units.
Fayetteville Street District: This district will get some attention in the future as part of the Downtown Raleigh Economic Development Strategy.
Reliance as the word of the year
During DRA President and CEO Bill King’s closing, he said reliance is the key word of the last year (and a half). The panel of business owners, moderated by Maggie Kane, founder of A Place at the Table, struck a similar note.
“People didn’t realize how much we really needed each other” before the pandemic, she said.
Emily Grey, owner of The Flourish Market, also emphasized the importance of strong local support from the community. Every dollar you spend is a vote toward the type of community you want to live in, she said.
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