Downtown Developer Greg Hatem on Downtown Vibrancy

Sidewalks of Fayetteville Street in the Spring

At last week’s city council meeting, Greg Hatem, owner of Empire Properties and Empire Eats, stood up and shared some thoughts. He had a few things to say about our city’s vibrancy and the ongoing discussions with the outdoor amplified sound permitting. Here’s the video of Mr. Hatem’s comments and the following council discussion.

If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, click here.

First, the downtown vibrancy piece. According to a yet unpublished study by the University of North Carolina Planning School, “Raleigh is in the bottom 20% of vibrant communities” in the nation. That statement is definitely something to follow up on.

The most obvious question to see in the study is whether this is only referring to the downtown or the city as a whole. Clearly, if the entire city was included then I don’t feel there’s too much of a shock here. More information is needed as to the study’s metrics.

Next, the ongoing debate over outdoor amplified sound permits. There are currently six restaurants and bars in the Fayetteville Street district that have applied for these permits. Hatem’s comments suggest a larger “issue” that the Fayetteville Street area is basically becoming a party district, where trash, bodily fluids, and signs of partying linger. His discussion of downtown vibrancy suggest that what’s needed are less bars but more retail and a downtown grocery store.

The complaints about more outdoor sound permits may be premature as the city is currently running a pilot program for addressing the very same issue over in Glenwood South. Rather than more restrictions, the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative has helped launch the Glenwood South Hospitality District. This pilot runs through November 30, 2015 and attempts to create more synergy between residents and business owners when complaints come up. We should wait and see the results of this program before we start restricting things in other districts.

I think Hatem’s points are fair though. I’ve walked downtown Raleigh on Sunday mornings and some of the sidewalks really do look hungover. There are lots of opinions here but for me, it’s just a cleanliness issue, and only on the weekends.

Again, this may seem a moot point because there were discussions between the council and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) in 2014 about increasing the resources put toward safety and cleanliness in downtown. I point you to a budget note from the DRA asking the city manager for more funding for the issue.

At the June 2, 2014 Budget work session, Council members discussed the safety and appearance of downtown Raleigh. Council Member Crowder asked that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) review its budget to determine if funding could be reallocated to provide additional cleaning and safety efforts in downtown. Council Member Baldwin commented on the lack of cleanliness in city parking decks.

It’s all growing pains for sure as businesses and residents haven’t lived this close together in this city for decades because of our now growing, attractive, and revitalizing downtown. The currently in-progress Downtown Experience Plan may help to address these concerns by providing a more mix of uses in downtown.

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  1. Regarding the Sunday morning hangover, doesn’t the city collect overlay taxes in support of services in the city core? I know that I’ve been told that it pays for the ambassadors, extra garbage and recycling bins, wayfinding, etc.

    Does the city collect fees from restaurants who use the public right away as outdoor seating? Do they collect fees for these outdoor amplified music permits? If not, they should. These are specifically the sorts of things that contribute to the “hangover on the streets”.

    As the city core grows with more business, it should be collecting more of these taxes and fees. If it doesn’t already exist, the city should have a special street/sidewalk cleaning detail on Friday, Saturday and Sunday early mornings. This sort of detail is done nightly across SouthBeach and is a very successful program that gives the locals and tourists a fresh start each morning, regardless of their personal hangovers.

  2. As I commented on the N&O article about this: Add him to the growing list of people who want to live in the city but for some reason don’t want it to be an actual city. I mean please, too noisy? Unlivable?? Has he even heard of New York?

  3. No more bars, what is wrong with this guy.
    Close yours!

    Hatem is NOT the voice of OUR downtown. He is associated with a few restaurants and he does a pathetic job of building NEW from the ground up (The “L” is a perfect example, giving up on The Layfette (do not want to hear a word about the economy), just keep serving food).

    You don’t like the noise, move to the BURBS!

    Sounds like he wants to prevent the kids from having a great time, but wants them to spend money in his restaurants (which I do not do, Raleigh Times food is so overrated, small portions and priced to high).

    This guy needs to move over and let real developers grow Raleigh.

  4. City bought street cleaners, where are they?
    Agree with collecting fees.

    Move to the Burbs Hatem, your a roadblock to new growth (no more bars, you can be the first to close yours).

  5. It’s easy to take shots at Greg because he owns restaurants and bars and therefore you see some hypocrisy in his statements. Greg is not trying to prevent restaurants and bars from growing downtown. What he doesn’t want and I wholeheateedly agree is for Fayettville Street to turn into what Glenwood became, the “Myrtle Beach Grandstrand” filled with cheesy “clubs” that are packed with college kids, various military on “weekend passes”, and hair-gel, tanning bed coated, New Jersey jack holes. This is not what a vibrant downtown core needs or wants. Think of Manhattan or downtown Chicago? If you want the Redneck Riviera, head to Myrtle for the weekend…

  6. I agree with Hatem in that the retail balance downtown is way out of whack. Too many bars everywhere and almost nothing else. It’s fine to have a district like that or even a couple but if that’s all the entire downtown has to offer then downtown will only ever be relevant to the small segment of the population that likes bars enough that they don’t mind all the downsides (noise and rowdiness, mostly) that come with them.

  7. Haha, this is comical. Hatem once benefited from these permits and now is helping put a moratorium on new ones. Raleigh Times FB profile pic is of a huge crowd spilling on to the street. Classic case of do as I say, not as I do. Mr. Hatem should lead by example and close the Raleigh Times.

  8. Let’s just take this bit by bit. Starting with the cleanliness issue. Don’t get me wrong, I like a clean street just as much as anyone, but for Greg Hatem to say one word about street cleanliness is hysterical. Does his bar have no responsibility in that? Do people stay at Raleigh Times and never walk a block over to Fayetteville Street? Especially after one of his street festivals? Is it always clean in front of Raleigh Times? The permit issue: Hatem wanted one, he got one. These bars are not asking to play music outside. The noise issue: it’s loud on the weekends. It’s loud at his establishment on the weekends. Since when are cities (particularly vibrant ones) quiet? The retail issue: Finally something I agree with him on. But, Hatem owns a lot of buildings and will probably buy a lot more. I’m guessing he can bring in some retail if he wanted to. He brought an enormous bar. (I’m sorry, I mean, a quiet place for people to enjoy a plate of fried chicken skins to soak up all the water they are drinking.) Is the rent affordable enough for small business retail in his buildings? (I have no idea, I’m just asking.) He might have some valid points, but wow, was he the WRONG person to bring this to the table.

  9. Uncle Jesse, it’s easy to take shots at Greg because he’s a hypocrite, you’re absolutely right. He gladly expanded the Times into a monster of a bar who’s target clientele on the weekends are exactly the kind of people you are trashing, he wasn’t concerned then. He is indeed trying to control other businesses and is clearly using his clout as leverage to impose his will. He wants quality control? Start with his own bars and crappy restaurants. I’m sure he’s not concerned for the people who live in the Prairie Building having to hear the loudest bar in Raleigh every weekend (oh hey, that’s his bar). Defending his hypocrisy is weak, almost jock-riding status. I’ve worked for Greg, quality has never been his focus, it’s always been about volume and numbers. Why so concerned about quality now? Why slow down the progression of downtown? Oh, because there are other players now. He’s a whiny, shady businessman who will pound his fists to get what he wants. Luckily, others are stepping up and challenging him, he’s no longer the only big fish in the small pond, and it drives him nuts. He helped shape and form this identity, he continues to benefit from it, and now he is complaining about it. People pointing out his hypocrisy is the least we can do. Greg Hatem is trash.

  10. Also, if he wants to complain about cleanliness, he can start by power-washing the sidewalk at the corner of Hargett and Wilmington, it smells like a grease trap has exploded, murky standing water, and trash everywhere. He needs to practice what he preaches and get a grip.

  11. The competition has arrived for Hatem and this is his way of trying to control the situation. He needs to clean up the sidewalks by the Times, they smell of garbage and look horrible. Also he wants to talk vibrancy when he has a kitchen taking up valuable space that could be used for a much better use. You make money off of the drunks and all of a sudden you want them gone. I do agree we need more retail downtown and a few less bars.

  12. The number of bars downtown is fine. We just need more other things… theaters, bookstores, grocers, clothing stores.

    The party we have downtown is good, now we need to get the rest of the days of the week represented. Not just Friday and saturday.

  13. Leo, why do you continue to throw one softball after another at this sleazeball? At some point it has to stop. I swear this whole thing has to be an early April Fool’s joke. Greg wants to brag about the 40 buildings he owns in downtown Raleigh? Well, why the heck isn’t he putting retail into every single one of them if he is so concerned about it? If he’s so concerned about “downtown vibrancy”, why does he continue to sit on property after property, letting them rot into the ground? The reality is he has fixed up just a relative handful of the “40” he’s so boastful about. Did Greg Hatem have a big hand in the early resurgence of downtown? Yep. But that’s where it stops. Anyone who doesn’t realize how ruthless, manipulative, vindictive, and calculating this man is knows him only from the media coverage he’s gotten himself. Or, they are of some continued “use” to him, and he pretends to be someone he is in no way even close to. The kind, soft-spoken Greg Hatem that came before city council is a farce and nothing more. Why are there so many people commenting on all the boards, facebook, articles, etc., that this is all just a ploy to attempt to stifle his growing competition? Because that’s EXACTLY what this is about. This little crybaby can’t stand the fact that he’s doesn’t have the biggest pants in town anymore. The hypocrisy is stifling. This is the man who regularly shuts down Hargett for street festivals. How many buildings does the Times gobble up now? This is the business owner who just had someone try to take a gun away from an officer and threaten to shoot her in one of his establishments last week. This is the man who breaks lease after lease in his buildings on a whim, and charges exorbitant rents that are absolutely prohibitive to “downtown vibrancy”. This is the man who complains about how noisy Fayetteville is, and how he can’t live there anymore, but lives two floors up from the Stockroom, one of the busiest (and loudest) special event spaces downtown. For years, everyone has walked on eggshells around him for fear of reprisal, but I am so glad to see so many people who are sick and tired of this worst kind of bully holding our downtown hostage.

  14. Ironically, Ashley Christensen is “eating” his business for lunch. He’s just trying to defend HIS party crowd so that someone doesn’t erode that business too.

  15. How many people watched the town council meeting provided by this article? Mr. Hatem begins his plea around the 2 hr mark. The truly remarkable thing is that the council issues the moratorium from a few complaints Mr. Hatem sights (“waking up Thursday, Friday, Saturday to the aftermath”) and statistics from an unpublished study that supposedly ranks Raleigh in the lower %20 of “vibrant” cities. Truly remarkable, your town council at work. Imagine any ordinary citizen trying to issue a moratorium un such baseless grounds, I think you’d find they’d be laughed off the stage. But not Mr. Hatem, he says pay attention, and they do. Now what would the town attorney (present at the meeting) have to say about this? Anyone that doesn’t recognize this agenda as back channel politics is a fool. The agenda was made prior to the meeting, with the council already on board. Mr. Hatem was the messenger that the council needed to bring light of this “issue” to the forefront. I suggest the N&O consider looking more deeply why the council was so quick to bend to Mr. Hatem’s whims on such flimsy evidence (hyperbole and unfounded data). Of course it’s politics as usual, but who doesn’t love exposing a good ole scandal?

  16. Maybe someone can enlighten me on the difference but I would think vibrancy and economy would go hand and hand?Interesting that Raleigh(as a whole) is considered to be low in vibrancy when our city is being listed as one of the top 5 cities in America to live and work consistently. I guess a town can have a good economy but a low vibrancy??

  17. “Myrtle Beach”, the Jersey Shore… This is the real issue.

    I know Greg and Ashley and neither of them are having any trouble attracting customers to their restaurant to their respective establishmets. The key difference is none of their places remotely resemble the cheesy places that are of concern: Common 414, Coglins, and whatever. That ridiculous place on glenwood with all the swings is called attract very different clientele, namely those between 17 and 23. How many times can you recall anyone having to check IDs outside Ashley or Greg’s places (FOX being an exception) but even Fox does its best to restrict the “under 25” crowd.

    We DO NOT want downtown to resemble the Grand Strand in any way.

  18. I do not want Raleigh to be anything like Myrtle Beach or South beach! We should be aiming much higher… !

  19. To even imply that downtown Raleigh will ever be like Myrtle Beach is ludicrous. DT Raleigh is heavily occupied by the local and State gov’t. You have to remember that Myrtle Beach, South Beach, Daytona Beach and even Las Vegas have beaches and gambling that bring in the tourism for retail stores that offer cheap merchandise and gimmick concepts. That’s not to say that all beaches are like this. Wilmington is certainly different from Myrtle Beach. But I think you get my point. I would not fear that “big Johnson” t-shirts will be up for sale in downtown Raleigh anytime soon.

  20. Man, I really like City Councilor Wayne Maiorano’s statement in today’s N&O saying that he wants to see a 40-story tower project in our downtown to show that Raleigh is ready to make a Bold Statement! I really like Wayne! I have spoke with him quite a few times & he really supports growth in the core of downtown. He supports a downtown police/fire headquarters. If you will, please e-mail Wayne @ Wayne.Maiorano@RaleighNC.Gov to thank him for supporting our downtown so strongly. Thanks,Dwight Nipper

  21. Dwight: I sent him a detailed e-mail a couple weeks ago asking for continued support on downtown development (vertical development). He replied within 24 hours. To soon to tell, but thus far, I am also impressed.

    This is the kind of vision city council has lacked for years (well before that lap dog Mayor Fetzer).

    This is a great opportunity for a building across from Campbell (build it sooner than later (40 – 50 stories, a signature facility with a signature top, something that represents “The Triangle” region).

    Never have gotten quick responses from that errogant ODOM or BONNER

  22. Thanks Matthew! You are doing better than me as far as responses from John Odom. Over the 5 years of e-mailing the councilors, I have receive 1 answer from Mr. Odom, & I live in his district. Just my opinion, but after meeting all the council members, I believe that Mr. Weeks, Mr. Maiorano, Mr. Stevenson, Miss Baldwin, Mayor McFarlane really supports downtown developement.
    “Go Raleigh”! Dwight Nipper

  23. Odom. He should be city (Village) council in a small village.

    He is laughable: no vision, road block, does not add to the conversation (other than constant negativity).
    Time for him to move on. Oh, he is OK at handing out trophies. For future reference, this guy should never be in the Raleigh Hall of Fame (he has added no value throughout the years (he delays and prevents projects from moving forward).

    Dwight, I know you live in his district, but what is wrong with the people who keep voting for this guy.

  24. Jerry, I don’t know! From what I have heard, John has a lot of friends that have lived here for a long time. I have written him 2 letters, but no responce. It seems to me that there were enough people in this area that were against “The Lightner Project” & John voted against it. I was for The Lightner Project, so I guess that is why John didn’t reply to me.Also, John has the support of “The Wake County Taxpayers Association”, which carries a lot of weight. It seems that we will have John as long as he wants to be on the council, to me.I don’t have the time to run. My grandson plays on 2 baseball teams & also hockey for the Junior Carolina Hurricanes. They travel to most of the big cities that the Hurricanes play at. Dwight Nipper

  25. Dwight, Mr Odom seems to be mixed up in his logic! The following is a recent quote from him….”“One of the problem that’s still around is the old mentality of inside the Beltline, outside the Beltline,” said Councilman John Odom”

    He seems to grasp the thought we need to improve as a whole, but lacks the understanding of how to accomplish this. The city core will drive the growth of the other areas. He talks growth, but then is a roadblock for the same.

    I was also reading of how the city is now suppose to be short 13 million for Union Station (as planned)due to new cost estimates. This is one time the city is going to have to act… our growth depends on it… but what will Mr. Odom do?? who knows!

    Read more here:

  26. I do think Raleigh needs to improve bus service, and update our bus system as a whole! I also think that Raleigh needs to move forward on our rail system, the longer we put it off the more costly it will become. We should be planning for the future, being proactive.

    Light rail will eventually be fully needed in our city. The cost of putting off addressing this will result in more expenses, harder work due to more congestion, as well as deter some businesses from expanding/entering our city! We need to be ready for the future… not putting things off forever.

    In the following article, the author says that because some city services have left downtown, it is proof that we do not need light rail service yet! Then I remember the reason those services (such as the police) have relocated outside the city… simply put they ended up out of the city core because of the very people blocking progress. The police for example are already suppose to be housed in the Lightner Safety Center building by now. This author made weak points in hopes that people would forget the real reasons we have not moved forward. Yes… finances are of concern and have been… but the longer you put something off… the more it will cost.

  27. I wanted to punch the columnist in the head after reading that crap. We shouldn’t have light rail because no one rides our shitty buses? Or because some state agency moved out of downtown? How about the fact that tons of people travel on congested highways that just get worse every year? I’m talking about a commuter rail from Chapel Hill to Raleigh at least, and a supplemental light rail for the main corridors of Raleigh. Wade Ave, Capital Blvd, Glenwood, etc. Bus lines can add to the connectivity to be sure. We need to be proactive, not reactive.

  28. Christensen is an idiot, has no clue what he is talking about.

    What moron thinks that the light rail is JUST used within any city limits (excluding NYC – and that connects the all districts)!!
    The light rail will NOT be used by JUST approx 500K people IN Raleigh, it will be used by WAKE COUNTY and “The Triangle”

    Sick of these SO called journalist who have NO idea what they are writing in a column.

    Light Rail will be used by a variety of people in Wake County (hey Christensen, get your head out of your ass – 1 MILLION people and growing, more than 2M people in The surrounding “Triangle Region”).

    Buses!!! are you kidding, I will ride light rail over a Bus 7 days a week (people who are negative about Light Rail need to move out!! – they are clueless and will be the ones who lead us to gridlock, you build it, they will ride.
    Charlotte is NO MORE Urban than Raleigh or The Traingle. And I will argue that with anyone.



    Christensen, go away and get your facts straight, your awful.

  29. I do have to wonder how many people will read this and think it is based on fact instead of being a commentary!

    I forgot to mention that the groups he mentioned were appointed for the most part by those opposed to light rail in the first place. These groups were not independent but hand picked to support their viewpoints.

    Then he fails to realize that Durham and Chapel Hill are already moving forward on light rail, the last I checked they had smaller populations than Raleigh. Then he then fails to recognize the fact that we are part of the triangle! As Anthony pointe+d out about 2 million people are growing! To best of my knowledge Charlotte then has a similar population as us! I just wished I had time to research a proper rebuttal to this idiot and send it in to N&O!

  30. I was present at the City Council meeting on January 20 for Greg Hatem’s presentation referred to in Donna Belt’s article. I don’t recall Greg’s stating that it was either restrictions on businesses or miserable conditions for residents.
    It is true that many residents in the Fayetteville Street District are not happy, but many businesses besides bars and restaurants are not happy either. Adding outdoor music from 11 to 2 am is not the answer to a neighborhood already compromised by trash, vomit, late night screaming and interrupted sleep. Our stately main street corridor is now filled with a proliferation of bars “crowding out retail by taking scarce storefront spaces and limiting our downtown’s ability to reach optimal residential demographics for retail expansion.”
    I am glad to hear that the new system is working well for businesses and residents in Glenwood South. But our district is different from Glenwood South and one size doesn’t fit all. We want our neighborhood to be a good place for children and families and anyone else who wants to be a part of our community. We’re working hard to find a safe, healthy balance.
    Greg stated that he would like to see the data on the Glenwood South plan after one year, especially after the summer months when outdoor celebrations are in full swing. He wants to explore a report from the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning on “urban vibrancy” and why Raleigh tested in the lower 20% in that category. He further stated that our Downtown Plan has yet to be presented which will also help to expand the conversation…not an ‘either/or” but a “let’s look at all the reasonable data first.” And that is why I think a moratorium on Outdoor Amplified Entertainment permits is the best reasonable solution.

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