Downtown Raleigh Alliance data points to economic rebound

The top of the 538-foot PNC Plaza skyscraper isn’t the only thing staring down Raleigh.

A second-quarter market report released by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance this week contains positive data on everything from expected developments to the return of beloved festivals like Artsplosure.

COVID-19 has taken a toll on countless businesses and economies, and Raleigh was no exception. In 2020, foot traffic and local businesses hit all-time lows, but last quarter’s numbers reflect all the work that has been done — and still needs to be done — to get downtown back on its feet. With 17 new development projects underway, 95% residential occupancy and an almost 30% increase in food and beverage sales compared to the same quarter a year ago, I think it is prudent to say Raleigh is in its throwback era.

Although not all of downtown Raleigh has recovered from the pandemic and many small business owners are still struggling to recover from two years of lost revenue, the report showed 10 new openings and expansions of storefronts, says Will Gaskins, vice president of economic development for the alliance. and planning.

“We continue to see a lot of entrepreneurial activity, with new or expanding businesses downtown, and it’s just an exciting steady pace of new local businesses opening downtown,” says Gaskins.

The report highlights the increase in hotel occupancy and tourism from April to June, as well as the success of downtown festivals and major events like Artsplosure, Raleigh Pride, Cuegrass and Brewgaloo. Raleigh is also piloting a social district around Fayetteville Street, which will allow people to drink alcoholic beverages while strolling downtown.

Now we know the place, but what about the people? The report showed a resident population of over 12,000, 48,000 downtown employees and a median age of 33. The population has doubled since 2010 and is expected to start approaching 20,000 by 2026, according to the report.

With this growing population comes new opportunities and jobs. One of the report’s strongest findings was more than 345,000 square feet of net occupied downtown office space from the start of 2022 to the end of June, meaning offices are rebounding despite the hit they suffered during the pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Raleigh as the third-best job market in the United States, and Gaskins says there’s plenty of evidence for continued growth in the future.

“[We’re] very excited about the prospects for downtown Raleigh as a whole,” says Gaskins. “The fact that we’ve seen this level of continued interest from the development side, from new people coming into the market to renting apartments and keeping occupancy high, means there’s extremely robust demand.”

Raleigh residents’ consistent support for independent local businesses is what keeps much of downtown Raleigh afloat, and the pandemic has given many downtown residents an opportunity to refocus that support toward community-owned businesses. minorities and women,” said Gaskins.

“To see this in a downtown our size, it’s really encouraging that we’re prioritizing this as a community,” Gaskins says. “Since the onset of the pandemic in particular, we have really seen an explosion in entrepreneurship and the recruitment, relocation and expansion of minority and women-owned businesses.”

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