Jul 12, 2023 - News

Raleigh's new strategy for bringing downtown back to life

Downtown Raleigh has had an uneven recovery from the pandemic. Photo: Visit Raleigh

While parts of downtown Raleigh, like the nightlife district of Glenwood South, are as busy as ever, the city's core business district is still in the doldrums.

  • Now, the sight of Raleigh's main street sitting empty has city leaders determined to correct the trend.

Why it matters: In the decade leading up to the pandemic, downtown Raleigh had transformed its reputation from a place of empty storefronts into a vibrant destination for dining and shopping as well as a hub of tech startups.

Driving the news: The Downtown Raleigh Alliance and city of Raleigh together unveiled on Tuesday their plan to revitalize the Fayetteville Street district and find ways to make it less reliant on offices for traffic.

  • The plan is being designed in consultation with Interface Studio, a design firm that has done planning work with cities like Atlanta and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The project has a $250,000 budget that is being paid for with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
  • Over the next year, the groups will come up with recommendations aimed at bringing back growth to the district.

What they're saying: "The narrative about downtown has to be less about crisis recovery and more about, 'OK, what's the future look like?'" said Bill King, president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

  • "We've got to look at the whole landscape and find how we move forward."

The city's plan will focus on four areas:

  • Recruitment strategy for retail on Fayetteville Street;
  • Marketing downtown's office spaces, like recruiting life sciences companies;
  • Increasing the number of minority- and women-owned businesses;
  • And finding new catalytic projects to boost the area, like previous projects including the Convention Center and Union Station did.

State of play: Downtown lacks a big idea, King said, and it needs to find one, whether that's creating a better connection to Dix Park or redeveloping portions of the state government campus.

The bottom line: Downtown Raleigh has lost momentum, and the city is hoping it can shift that narrative.


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