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Older businesses feel squeezed by Raleigh growth

Raleigh
July 6, 2012 1:11:46 PM PDT
More residential apartments are coming to downtown Raleigh, with two towers planned on each side of the Blount Street parking deck.

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It's a move that comes in response to the booming rental market, and city planners see it as a huge plus. But for some local businesses forced to move, it's a case of out with the old to make room for the new.

Within the next year, developers hope to transform an empty lot on Martin Street into a 23-story tower filled with 220 rental apartments. It's a move that mirrors the city's plans for Raleigh's future.

"Just a rebirth of the city, restaurants, bars - it's a phenomenal place. We've got the convention center, the downtown amphitheater, reopening Main Street back again, so there have been so many positive things," said City Manager Russell Allen

But progress comes at a price. A second residential tower with 249 apartments is scheduled to go up on the other side of the block - at the corner of Davie and Wilmington - and that means some local businesses will have to relocate.

At one business called Taz's, there's a sign that says they've moved to another location down the street. A shoe repair shop has picked up and moved too. But there are a couple of businesses at the end of the block, and they're the ones who say they're worried about having to leave.

Sylvia Wiggins is the director at the Helping Hand Mission. Although they have other locations, the downtown store serves as a place to teach teens skills to help them get jobs in the retail industry.

"I tell you what, I was very, very sad when I heard about us having to leave," she said.

The project's developer, Gregg Sandreuter, told us over the phone that he wants to be very sensitive to the plight of the businesses, and he's trying to give them plenty of time to make arrangements to move before September.

Wiggins told us her beef isn't with the developer, so much as the city itself.

"Everything is geared toward the new restaurants sitting outdoors, the new Raleigh, but there's nothing for the older places that have been here, have been stable, surviving. We just feel like we've been pushed out," she explained.

The Helping Hand Mission is looking for a new place, but hasn't found one downtown that they can afford. That's why they're hoping the city will help them so they can continue to help the community.

The developer said he's still working on financing for the towers. But if all goes according to plan, he hopes to start construction on the northeast corner tower this fall.

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