Pic of the Week

Oak City Market House of Fresh

The convenience store king of downtown Raleigh, Taz, has opened up Oak City Market House of Fresh in the Skyhouse tower. The shop is part deli, part grocer with a wide selection of produce, meats, and other essentials. What I like about this one is that the items are packed in there, as an urban store should be.

When you couple this up with DGX Raleigh nearby, you have some pretty convenient options along Blount Street.

Dollar General Express Now Open in Downtown Raleigh

Dollar General Express

Email readers: This blog post has a virtual reality image. Read the post on the blog to see it.

A new concept for the company, this store, Dollar General Express, is now open in The Edison Lofts at the corner of Davie and Blount Streets. The store contains more convenience items rather than cheaper home goods like the larger stores. It’s actually a decent convenience store with some grocery items.

High-end, gourmet retail is nice but sometimes, you just need the quick and easy. From a resident’s point-of-view, I welcome the new store and hope it succeeds.

Dollar General Express

2013 Top Places of Empty Spaces, Adding Retail In Downtown Raleigh

A friend of mine made a reference to an old post here on the blog and looking back at it after all these years makes for a great followup. In 2008, I made a list of ten retail spaces that should be filled. Today six places off that list are now occupied. It’s not just restaurants though, retail has taken hold and the quantity of shops is only increasing year after year in downtown Raleigh.

If you look at the post, you’ll see photos of empty buildings where popular restaurants are today. Beasley’s and Chuck’s have ignited the corner of Martin and Wilmington Streets. The ground floor of the Odd Fellows building was empty until Deco, Nora and Nicky’s, and High Cotton gave people a reason to window shop at Hargett and Salisbury Street. Almost all the spaces in The Depot were once empty until Videri Chocolate Factory, Tasty Beverage Company, Jose and Sons, Junction Salonbar, and Tuscan Blu set up.

Before getting into another empty spaces list, an important thing to note is that there are areas in downtown where empty spaces are few and need to be built. The “missing teeth” of retail is being filled in and the options and variety is increasing. As fewer historic buildings needing renovation are available, this will increase the demand to build new shops in new construction buildings.

Glenwood South, end-to-end, is practically full. With The Wine Feed guys renovating their space in the Hampton there’s really not much new sidewalk retail space available. Projects like The Gramercy should be adding more retail spaces right along Glenwood Avenue. The now under construction Ale House building, at Glenwood and Tucker Street, may add retail/restaurants where an empty office building once sat.

Other notables include individual buildings around downtown. PNC Plaza has leased their retail spaces and it appears the smallest one along Martin has paper over the glass as if something is going on behind it. The Hue has renters in all their spaces minus one. Red Hat Tower has seen turnover but is typically full.

The simplest way to put it is that creating a list like the one below was more difficult today than it was five years ago.

And now onto the list.

107 East Martin

A small empty space for years but just around the corner from all the great restaurants at Martin and Wilmington. The problem, I think, is that it probably needs a lot of work to get something started here. I don’t know much about the details of renovation but this building looks pretty sad and start up costs must be higher than most.

Blount Street Deck

The Blount Street Parking deck has two retail spaces, one facing Wilmington and the other on Blount Street. The downtown staple, Cooper’s BBQ is moving to the space along Wilmington and the one facing Blount is still waiting for its first tenant since opening in 2008. Facing City Market and being close to Moore Square, I would think this could be an attractive space. What will probably make it happen for this nook is when nearby residential projects like Skyhouse and The Edison open up. A services type shop would be perfect for downtown residents in this area.

The Atrium

The Atrium has such a good location along Fayetteville Street but needs a lot of work to be useful. The old, brick building is missing a roof in the back so someone with a lot of passion for this architecturally flat building will have to come along to spruce it up. Eventually, the location will be too good to pass on it for some developer.

Boylan Pearce Building

This has been empty ever since Fayetteville Street dropped the mall from it’s name in 2006. The Boylan Pearce Building sits in the prime 200 block of Fayetteville Street, experiencing some of the highest pedestrian counts in downtown Raleigh. Almost a year ago, there was news of a buyer of the building with plans to restore it.

Days before I planned to post this, signs of construction on the bottom floor popped up. So it’s possible this space is coming off this list sometime soon.

The Raleigh Sandwich Shop

Sandwiched, pun intended, between some busy shops and restaurants along Wilmington Street, the Raleigh Sandwich Shop has such a good location for someone to consider working with it. I’m going to punt this one over to a great post at Goodnight, Raleigh about the shop. Remembering the Raleigh Sandwich Shop

The Shops at 500 Hillsborough Street

This little strip of one-story retail spaces is kind of an island between Glenwood South and Fayetteville Street. The shops that are there serve niche markets, like the violin store, but next door, the spaces are empty. This is a tricky area I feel as the better move would be to join the cluster of businesses in the other districts. Until the growth reaches here, this may be the same for a long time.

City Market
I feel like the City Market building is the flagship in historic charm for downtown Raleigh. Some may say the Briggs Hardware building but I lean more toward the ole girl on Martin Street. The half facing Martin Street has been vacant for quite some time now with the other half being used by the event venue, Cobblestone Hall. It’s a big space and difficult to break up into smaller ones, if even possible. A big restaurant operation or large retail store is perfect for this space.

Currently, there are posters around it for an event space called 214 Martin.

City Journal, Urban Shopping In and Out of Downtown

My latest City Journal article has been posted over at the Raleigh Public Record. I took a look at other urban-style shopping and retail centers in Raleigh, mainly North Hills and Lafayette Village, and compared them to downtown Raleigh.

During the past few decades, Raleigh, like the rest of the country, is shopping differently. Yes, online spending continues to grow, but spending “in real life,” or in shopping centers, is changing, too. Urban in style with a mix of uses is the new trend in retail development, and in Raleigh, a few locations offer shoppers goods, services, and a place to socialize.

*Retail Becomes More Urban, Social

It’s interesting that there are some very similar qualities between these places and downtown. However, the dynamic is different in that downtown has hundreds of property owners while retailers work with just a single entity in the others.

Local Business Love It Promote It, LiPi Selling Downtown Wares Online


These days, the retail scene in downtown Raleigh is more about quality than quantity. Growing by a few more shops each year, we’re not quite at the point where mass Raleighites visit for a day of shopping. While we’re waiting for downtown to be a shopping destination, there may not be a more innovative way to sell products than what Love It Promote It is doing.

The local startup LiPi, for short, is an online store for products from locally-owned businesses. I met up with Jayson Humphrey to talk about his business and what he’s doing for downtown Raleigh merchants.

“Locally owned retailers are the heartbeat of LiPi”, said Humphrey as he swipes the latest version of his application on his smartphone. What Humphrey does is work with shops within and outside of downtown and has them list their products on his site. Shoppers can then browse and purchase products straight from the retailers.

LiPi is optimized for all phones, tablets, and browsers. Navigating is very simple as they use a Pinterest-style layout to show off products to viewers.

LiPi, Inc. was incorporated in April of 2012 and launched their e-commerce site in December later that year. They have been expanding their product offerings and the number of businesses they partner with, most of them being in downtown Raleigh. Shops like Galatea Boutique, Symbology Clothing, and Cimos Raleigh are all selling products on LiPi.

The philosophy is simple, to bring all the vendors to one online place.

“It’s not shopping at Cameron Village or shopping at North Hills, it’s all under one roof.” I was very intrigued at what LiPi was doing and how it could really help retail.

Today, the shops in downtown are spread out and not clustered in a way that promotes shopping as an activity like the malls do. With LiPi at their side, shops can sell in their stores as well as online. This gives them more exposure and making them less reliant on foot traffic. Raleighites who don’t normally think of shopping in downtown can now access the products by using LiPi.

The best way to keep in touch with LiPi is to join their site to receive attractive weekly emails of “the best curated goods.”

You can’t get any of these innovative services in traditional malls, not yet anyway. With the growth of online shopping, this seems like a natural fit for retail in urban areas.

[UPDATE: 12-15-13 – Removed broken links]

Municipography, Downtown Retail

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

Downtown Raleigh Retail

At the Raleigh City Council meeting last week, David Diaz and Paul Reimel from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) gave a report on retail within downtown Raleigh in 2012. We’ve talked about how the retail scene has become more and more noticeable and this data from the DRA supports that.

Below is the video showing their report.

Some highlights from it are:

  • Recognized the positive reaction of the retail community to rehabilitated storefronts and that there is still a need to work on more buildings in downtown.
  • In 2011, there were 83 retail space vacancies, accounting for 10% of inventory. In 2012, 27 of those 83 are now occupied.
  • 2012 also had 38 retail openings, a 28% increase from openings in 2011.
  • With the downtown load program, 3 loans were given for $150,000 total.
  • The loan program had 25 inquiries in 2012, the highest yearly amount yet.
  • Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week continues to grow and be more popular with each year.

Downtown Remote Operations Facility

The Downtown Remote Operations Facility isn’t directly tied to downtown. This new building, planned along Westinghouse Boulevard near Capital Boulevard and I-440, will instead be the new home for city maintenance trucks. The result is that the city can then vacate the current lot along Peace Street, the site of the old Devereux Meadow baseball park between West Street and Capital Boulevard.

The council approved moving forward with the project. Details below from the agenda.

On September 6, 2011, City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into a contract with Williard Ferm Architects to provide planning and design services, through 50% construction documents, for Phase 1 of the proposed Downtown Remote Operations Facility to be located on the city-owned site east of I-440 between Capital Boulevard and Raleigh Boulevard on the former Westinghouse property.

In addition, a Request for Qualifications to provide Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) services was advertised on October 23, 2012. Eight responses were received and three firms selected for interviews. Interviews were conducted on December 12, 2012, resulting in the recommendation of Brasfield and Gorrie general contractors to provide CMAR services. Brasfield and Gorrie has submitted a proposal of $375,000 to provide the required pre-construction level services.

A status report of the design development effort is being presented to provide an update on the project and to discuss City administration recommended actions to maintain progress related to design and construction.

Recommendation: (1) Authorize proceeding with the proposed Downtown Remote Operations Facility, to include the proposed facility program, site design alternatives, project schedule, and estimated costs. (2) Authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute a Contract Amendment with Williard Ferm Architects to complete construction documents and provide for construction phase services. (3) Authorize the City Manager to execute a contract with Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors, in the amount of $375,000, to provide pre-construction services sufficient to develop a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for Phase 1 construction of the proposed Downtown Remote Operations Facility. (4) Authorize the following budget transfer from previously approved and completed remote operations facilities to fund additional design and pre-construction services, commissioning services, environmental management, and permitting requirements.

Transfer From:
508-2210-790010-975-CIP00-99150000 $1,200,000
Wilder’s Grove Remote Operations Center

Transfer To:
508-2210-790010-975-CIP00-93960000 $1,200,000
Downtown Remote Operations Center

Retail Rises In Downtown Raleigh

Lumina before opening at 123 East Martin Street.
Retail is coming.

Retail in Downtown Raleigh is the next frontier. Compared to the Eats crowd, shopping is just the little brother that’s finally coming out to play. Creating somewhat of a shopping experience here has been the slow moving gear in this revitalization. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) is certainly trying but we’ve yet to hit it big.

Downtown Raleigh has some fierce competition when it comes to shopping. Nearby Cameron Village is established and the development patterns of the city make the malls at Crabtree Valley and Triangle Towne Center a nice fit. So rather then bringing something everyone has already seen, downtown is creating a collection of shops that are unique to the area. And the shops are following the eating/drinking crowd if you pay close enough attention.

The true pioneers of retail in downtown were the art galleries and there’s nothing more unique then a big enough cluster of them, something you can’t find anywhere else in the city. With First Friday giving everyone exposure, other unique retailers set up shop for the downtown eats crowd, who keep things going after work hours.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a slow rise in the pure numbers. Using the internet archive, I took a look at the DRA’s site in April 2010 and compared it to their current website.

2010 2012
Clothing 20 24
Convenience 6 7
gifts 12 16

The numbers are nothing to be impressed with but it is slowly going up. It’s interesting to see that there is a lot of turnover but overall, we’re growing.

Clearly the retail scene is responding to the foot traffic. This foot traffic will increase as more apartments are under construction, more riders are riding transit, more restaurants are opening in downtown, more hotel space is coming, and more jobs are coming. We haven’t quite opened the floodgates yet but the retail scene, I think, is the next piece of downtown to keep an eye on.

For those interested, two new shops will be opening soon and will be celebrating. Cheers to the pioneers!

Grand Opening Celebration of Lumina

Date/Time: Fri., Nov. 2 from 5 p.m. until ….
123 E Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Deco Grand Opening

Date/Time: Fri., Nov. 9 from 5 – 9 p.m.
19 W Hargett St
Raleigh, NC 27601