Downtown Raleigh 2009 In Review

Another year, another Raleigh Wide Open, and another Beerfest are in the books. Back in January, I wrote a post about realistic goals that could happen within a year’s time for downtown Raleigh and I would like to re-visit that list. Read the 2009 Downtown Wishlist first.

Grocery Store

I’ll start out by saying what we all are thinking already. The economy has greatly affected each of these items and anything new in the future. A grocery store has been talked about on the blogs and in the mainstream media but it still has not happened for downtown. The closest thing to one was Capital City Grocery located in Seaboard Station but that closed last year in November 2008 and a replacement never came this year.

I think this will actually take more time then most people think. The big box style of grocery store requires lots of nearby residents and with a big parking lot in front so more people can come with their cars. An urban grocery store needs support by lots of residents close by and downtown does not have that density at all. Downtown’s population is not growing much so we’ll have to revisit this as the economy bounces back and people are buying downtown.

Music Venue

This month, the city council approved the amphitheater for the lot to the west of the convention center. Wish granted!

24 Hour Food

I’ll quote myself from the post back in January:

My dream would be some kind of diner that is always open, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner 24 hours a day.

It is possible that The Diner could be the one. Internet chatter can’t seem to agree whether it will actually be open for 24 hours or not. Since this place has not opened yet, we’ll wait and see for ourselves.

By the slice pizza and delivery

Sauced opened this year and I’m very satisfied with what they have to offer. Now if we can get delivery or maybe quicker service…you know what I’m not going to ask for too much. Wish granted!

At least one corporate re-location to downtown

I’m not even going to research this one because I am out of touch with the downtown corporate scene. RBC Plaza opened in late 2008 and the bank filled some floors as well as others signing leases in the rest of the building. If anyone can elaborate on the rest of the office space in downtown and how it is fairing, I’m sure readers would appreciate the information.

You could argue that Campbell Law’s move to downtown is similar to a corporate relocation. I’ll take it!

Online Raleigh scene

There have been some new additions to the online blog options this year, most with a very focused topic. There’s still a lacking in podcasting or video but that may take awhile to get going.

What would you like on your 2010 wishlist?

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  1. i’m gonna keep bitching until someone hears me. A BOOKSTORE. or at the VERY least a newsstand. c’mon people! i was so hoping one of the plaza kiosks was going to be a newsstand :(

  2. I also have bookstore on wish list. It doesn’t have to be big…something like The Regulator on Durham’s Ninth Street would serve downtown Raleigh very well.

    Fortunately, the downtown mini-branch of the library seems to be improving, thanks to some very dedicated staff members who want to serve downtown. Now if only the county would give them a better budget to expand some and increase hours, that would be a big plus.

    As far as grocery goes. I think Capital Grocery had the benefit of good parking but that was it. If they had been allowed ample signage on Peace Street that would’ve helped. But also, it really needed to be a name-brand people recognize. I support indie businesses as much as anyone, but when it comes to groceries, you really do need the financial backing of a big company for advertising and keeping all major products well-stocked on your shelves!
    Take the Seaboard Ace…which I support whenever I can…the franchise is locally-owned, but they have a national company giving the name recognition and product selection that people need. A good combo there.

    But I guess all of this is related to the largest item on the wish list: more residential. Or, I should specify, more reasonably-priced housing. I didn’t use the word “affordable”, because I don’t want it confused with subsidized. But there’s no doubt that downtown has more than its fair share of expensive housing. Normal people simply cannot afford 300 grand for a 2-room condo. Even the new apartment building at Tucker has rent that’s way too high for the size of its units. Downtown is desperate for more residential that the every day guy or gal can live in. Without that, all our wishes for retail or whatever won’t amount to much.

  3. Check out the updates to – we’ve recently been doing a series of Sneak Peaks in Downtown Raleigh – essentially video blog posts highlighting up and coming venues. These are free to those spots allowing owners to tell there story from their point of view – and we do share our content to most partners who align with our values at no charge. Perhaps in 2010, bloggers will take advantage and incorporate HD video within their blogs…YouTube-esq videos don’t cut it anymore – let us know if we can help!

  4. This is definitely the best time of the year to reflect on what happened, as well as share our wishes – and fears. I think that everybody has touched important points, so please forgive me if I repeat them, as well as for making this post a long one.

    * Corporate relocations. In my opinion, it should be the number 1 priority for our city leaders. While it is difficult to attract corporations during tough economic times, it is also a possibility, if we position ourselves as a great place to do business. Corporate relocations would not only bring additional skyscrapers, but flood the streets with thousands of new workers, many of whom may choose a downtown location as a residence. Additional corporate taxes may also benefit downtown and add to the existing momentum.

    * Residential population. A no-brainer. Without a strong downtown population, a 24/7 city center is not possible. I do not foresee any significant increase in the next 2-3 years, or even longer. If banks don’t loan money, NOTHING will happen. Even if all the existing projects get filled, which will be the priority for 2010 thru 2012, it won’t be for another 4-5 years before additional residential units get added. We can only hope that RBC Plaza, the Hue, 222 Glenwood, Bloomsbury Estates and West At North are sold out by then. Similar hopes for high occupancy rate for 712 Tucker.

    * Retail. I agree with what has been mentioned already. On the top of my list is a downtown bookstore, particularly a Barnes & Noble. Why? Because this brand attracts people, plus they have a great selection of books and magazines. Although more of a long term goal, I think that the city leaders should consider TigerDirect/CompUSA and Babies R Us. Let’s face it, people would shop at these stores no matter where they are located. Also, it may be a good idea to attract 2-3 somewhat “upscale” clothing stores, but nothing too pricey.

    * Grocery store(s). I guess this is in everyone’s mind, but the Capital City Grocery experiment showed two things: a) DT Raleigh may not be ready for a grocery store, and b) people are not going to be satisfied, no matter what; they may complain about chains, but they know they can’t find most of the things they need in a smaller store. My personal wish is to see “A Southern Season” opening a second location, in DT Raleigh. Such store would attract a lot of people. I do not expect to see it open next year, but at least I want to hear some positive news.

    * Entertainment. I am satisfied with the existing options and I hope all of them survive. I do not care to see new places when the existing ones barely make it, or even go out of business. I think entertainment is tied with the residential population; if the latter increases, so will the former. I would love to see European-style pub playing exclusively Heavy Metal and/or Classic Rock (not mostly radio hits please).

    * Education. I cannot imagine DT Raleigh without academic institutions. Campbell’s School of Law is a great start and I hope to see more universities join in. NCSU and Wake Tech should have already placed satellite schools in downtown. Let’s hope they see the benefit in it. Maybe UNC-CH and Duke University would also consider such move. I know that we have Peace College, Shaw University and St. Augustine’s, but I am speaking strictly about specialized programs.

    * Skyline. I would love to see a few additional cranes and a more dynamic skyline. I cannot imagine anything breaking ground next year, but who knows? A corporate relocation could help The Edison and Charter Square, or even One Glenwood (the dark horse) to take off, but I anticipate another “dry” season :(

    * Urban projects. Not only in terms of skyline, but also in terms of urbanity. I would love to see density and urbanity all over downtown. There are some revitalization efforts to bring older homes up to date, particularly in areas like Boylan Heights and Oakwood. If we can convert some of these areas to truly mixed-use, even in smaller scale, it would be nice. I would love to see Powerhouse Plaza breaking ground in 2010, as I think it will add a lot to Glenwood South’s increasing urbanity.

    Hope y’all have a great Holiday Season!!!

  5. My wish? Well, it’s rather self-centered. I wish that my home in the burbs will sell so I can purchase in downtown Raleigh. Looking to join in all the fun. Here’s to a great life in 2010 in downtown Raleigh!

  6. Look, Columbia is half the size of Raleigh and they made a downtown grocery store happen. You gotta believe!

  7. This may seem like a naive question, but I’ve never lived outside of Raleigh, so I don’t know how this works in other cities. Why ARE the condos downtown so expensive? You can pay $300,000 for a 1250 sq. ft., 2 bed, 2 bath condo in The West at North. However, you can buy a 1600 sq. ft. 3 bed, 3 bath home in Raleigh for $200,000.

    It would seem like the key to getting people to move downtown would lie in bringing down the property values of the downtown condos at least slightly. I assume there is a reason that property values cost more downtown, but like I said, I’ve never lived outside of Raleigh, so I don’t understand what is going on with this.

  8. Ashe,

    I will jump into this opportunity to demonstrate my ignorance :) Surely, there are many factors that determine the prices, but I will throw a few that I think play some role. After living in NYC, I cannot complain about the real estate prices anymore, but then again I am no expert.

    * Infrastructure – In any big city, all of the amenities are already in place. Sometimes upgrades may be necessary in order to make a project feasible. This is an extreme possibility, but it is a factor. As an example, take Lafayette. There was a need for some sort of environmental cleaning prior to construction.

    * Soil – DT Raleigh’s ground is not “fertile” for high-rise development, based on a recent discussion I had with a friend. While a 15-story building may not be as challenging, I am sure that additional studies need to be contacted before ground-breaking. Soleil Center is a good example.

    * Competition – Its lack thereof. Developers do not necessarily charge an arm and a leg, but they can keep the prices high.

    * Land costs – The question should be: Why does the land cost so much money in DT Raleigh? Beats me, but the land owners ask for too much, more often than not.

    * Construction costs – Since high-rise construction activity in Raleigh is not in pars with other [larger] cities, the local builders here are not focused on building tall. When out-of-town builders need to be hired, we may expect additional costs for moving equipment and personnel to Raleigh.

    * Developers – Outside Highwoods Properties, we do not have as many major developers as other cities. This means that local developers cannot afford to offer much lower prices, as they do not have the financial backing to sustain a slow market. I think we can see this today, very clearly.

    As the downtown population increases, we can expect prices to be more reasonable in the future. I totally agree about the prices, though, but after talking with some developers about the headaches associated with high-rise construction, I am not sure I could price the condos any better than they do.

  9. A bookstore would be great– model the Regulator on 9th street or Malaprops in Asheville.

    I would also really like to see some kind of small live theater. Progress Energy Performing Arts Center is nice but very expensive for a night out. It would be great to have a small performing arts venue like Man Bites Dog in Durham with interesting shows in the $15/ticket range. Hopefully the Raleigh Ensemble players will raise enough money to complete their space on Fayetteville Street, I think that has the potential to bring people down town.

  10. @gd– thanks, I am still relatively new to Raleigh and had not heard of them until I saw a great review for Much Ado About Nothing– hope to catch one of their shows soon!

  11. Advance Happy New Year to all of you!

    Raleigh is such a wonderful place. It’s nice to know that there will be another downtown wish list. :) So glad to know Music venue is already on the list! Wheew! That will be great!

    And also, I agree with Ashe, a bookstore perhaps.

    Anyway, great list!

  12. Ernest Hemingway~ Theres nothing noble in being superior to your fellow males. Accurate the aristocracy is being superior to your former self.

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