RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Downtown Raleigh Alliance delivered its annual State of Downtown Report to hundreds of people during an event Wednesday afternoon inside the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts.
"Probably the biggest things we have 2,899 residential units under construction right now, so that is the most we've ever had in our history by a long shot. That is a lot of units under construction, so that will have a pretty dramatic impact on adding a lot more people to downtown. (It's) a huge increase in supply which is a great thing. It's a big affirmation of people wanting to live here. Our downtown residential is about 94% occupied," said Downtown Raleigh Alliance President and CEO Bill King.
King said the additional housing has helped slow rent growth, with the report projecting the population downtown will double within the next five years, as a slate of projects is completed.
"It's definitely bringing us more of a customer base just because it's so trendy to find new coffee shops. And if you just move somewhere now, you want to get out and meet new people. And coffee shops are good for that. So we've definitely changed a lot of new faces of the new buildings for sure," said Landon Boles, manager of 42 & Lawrence on E. Martin Street.
Food and beverage sales are up 14% year-over-year, and the 3.7-plus million unique visitors to downtown represented a 16% increase.
"We've been chatting with people in buildings around downtown, and most people in those buildings know our store and think of it as our neighborhood store, which is exactly what we want to be," said Pam Blondin, owner of Deco Raleigh.
Blondin credited the loyalty of customers in helping them survive the COVID-19 pandemic response, though she noted the effects of shifting work habits and schedules.
"Definitely a different profile of our shoppers. Like most downtowns during the day, there aren't as many workers bustling around," Blondin said.
Both Boles and Blondin pointed to the value of large-scale events and festivals, which could be easier to attract in light of recently greenlit expansion projects that call for expanding the Raleigh Convention Center.
"We've definitely seen somewhat of a positive impact (of events). We had Hopscotch last week, that brought so many people from out of town in, and lots of new visitors," Boles noted.
"These events give downtown a sense of energy that you can't you can't mess with. It makes it feel like a place people want to be," said Blondin.
"The Convention Center is a really important part of sort of filling in the gaps here. You think about sort of Monday night through Wednesday night or so, a lot of the business downtown can be convention. So it's really important there that we aren't just relying on office workers or just relying on residents," said King.
King further highlighted more than $7 billion in the development pipeline of projects, about $2 billion of which has been completed thus far; the remaining have either been approved or planned and proposed.
"More cranes over downtown than we've ever had before, which is great. And, you know, we have other positive indicators. We've got a net gain of storefront businesses, which you might not have expected, but we got a substantial net gain of over 25 new storefront businesses this year. We've seen more visitors come back," said King.