COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed downtown Raleigh occupancy; rates still at or above 90 percent

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Downtown Raleigh resident Wilson Owens said he sees more people out and about, now that COVID-19 vaccinations are ramping up and cases are going down.

"I think people are a little bit more, kind of open and willing to go out now," Owens said.

Bill King, President and CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, agreed and said the warmer weather is also playing a role.

"We have these pedestrian counters that are able to count foot traffic in certain intersections," King said. "The last three weekends have been three of the best days since the pandemic began. And so Saturday, the last three Saturdays, have been really, really strong downtown."

Downtown lost some businesses to the pandemic, but King said trends have been moving in the right direction since Labor Day.

"We saw a good number of closings in the summer of last year but then they've slowed," King said. "We still had some but we've had more openings than closings."

King said food and beverage sales have increased during the last two months.

Downtown Raleigh Alliance reports that in August, the occupancy rate in downtown apartments was 97 percent. In February, a spot check at six apartment buildings showed an occupancy rate at or above 90 percent.

"We've been at a high occupancy rate for years now, and over 90 percent occupied as long as we've measured it, which has been in the last six years," King said. "We're still there, even after a year of the pandemic. I actually think it's a pretty good sign of resilience for the downtown residential market."

Kane Realty Corporation's Peace Raleigh Apartments opened during the pandemic.

Regional manager Ikima Hicks said some people purchased homes and moved outside of downtown. But she said they also saw people moving in from other states because of the shift to working from home.

"For the same amount of people that are buying homes, the leasing velocity has increased so significantly, because we have more and more an influx of people that are moving into downtown Raleigh," Hicks said.

Hicks said more than half of the building's 417 units are occupied. And she said activity is ticking up.

"January through February we've seen, like I said, six to 10 leases a week," she said.

With more apartments going up downtown, Hicks said renters can use this to their advantage.

"You're going to see some specials," she said. "If you are looking to move to downtown, I think that now is the time."
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