Downtown Raleigh Alliance report highlights economic rebound but 'we haven't yet pulled through'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Downtown Raleigh Alliance released its annual report Thursday, showing an economic rebound following a difficult stretch stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report highlights 37 new storefront businesses opening this year, a 215% increase in food and beverage sales in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter last year, and a 390% increase in demand for downtown hotel rooms in June 2021 compared to June 2020.

"It's nice to bounce back like that. Sales are starting to pick up, things are getting better. But we also talk about how we are reliant on the support of the community for that. So we want to make sure that people understand that the reason we are having some better days is because people have chosen to help this downtown and that's important too," said Bill King, President and CEO of Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

Emily Grey, the owner of The Flourish Market on West Martin Street, was one of the speakers who addressed the report during an event at the Duke Energy Center.

"Our sales have definitely improved over last year, but we're still lagging behind 2019. And I find that my fellow retailers and restaurant owners are still in the same place. So I always like to be clear that we haven't yet pulled through, we're still actively counting on all of you to help us pull through," said Grey, who acknowledged she did feel more confident in her future prospects today than she did a year ago.

Like much of the surrounding area, the downtown Raleigh real estate market remained robust, with 96.1% of apartments occupied, and 3,451 residential units completed since 2015.

"I think leasing activity will take off. I think we'll continue to see more residential buildings start construction based on that demand, there's a really good number, so you'll see housing increase. We're hopeful that particularly if we can get through (the Delta) variant, the office market will start to pick back up. So we saw signs of life with that, we've still got some room to go," King said.

Overall, there's been $4.9 billion in development pipeline of projects completed, under construction, or planned since 2015, part of widespread downtown growth.

Restaurants and bars have altered their arrangements to enhance physical distancing, with more than 160 restaurants and bars offering outdoor seating.

"What I'd say is most needed is for consumers to realize the power that you hold in your hand. Every dollar you spend at a restaurant, a local business, is a vote for the type of city that you want to continue living in, so your power is absolutely real," Grey said.
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