Nov 15, 2023 - News

Downtown Raleigh foot traffic lags behind prepandemic levels

Downtown foot traffic recovery, spring 2023
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Downtown defined as the central location with the highest concentration of employment in each metro area; Chart: Axios

Clyde Cooper's Barbecue, one of the state's oldest barbecue joints and a stalwart of downtown, is preparing to leave downtown — a blow to the area's ongoing recovery efforts.

Driving the news: Debbie Holt, the restaurant's owner, told the Triangle Business Journal its departure is due to falling foot traffic, limited parking and crime.

Why it matters: Clyde Cooper's exit is the latest evidence that downtown's recovery is plateauing.

  • Raleigh now ranks 48 out of more than 50 major U.S. cities in terms of post-pandemic downtown recovery, with a 63.2% recovery rate, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.
  • That's based on the number of downtown visitors in March through mid-June 2023, as compared to the same period in 2019.

Zoom in: Remote work has had a major effect on downtown Raleigh, emptying office buildings that used to reliably provide a steady stream of foot traffic to businesses like Clyde Cooper's.

By the numbers: Downtown's average daily pedestrian counts in the third quarter of 2023 were 5% lower than the same time period in 2022, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance said in its most recent quarterly report.

The big picture: Raleigh's recovery percentage improved from 44% following a methodology shift by University of Toronto researchers tracking how cities are emerging from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Most crucially, the researchers changed their definition of "downtown." They used to define it by ZIP codes with the highest job density, but now do so by broader areas with a high concentration of jobs.
  • The city's ranking, however, also dropped from No. 47 in the previous methodology.

State of play: Downtown Raleigh has had an east-west divide in its recovery, Bill King, president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, said earlier this year.

  • Glenwood South, on one hand, has bounced back as a nightlife hub and is home to many new apartments.
  • Fayetteville Street, home to more office buildings, has recovered more slowly.
  • The good news is that developer interest around Fayetteville Street has increased, with many apartments, an Omni Hotel and an expansion of the convention center planned there.
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