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Downtown and the Hillsborough Street district each had banner years for business in 2012, according to reports presented to the Raleigh City Council last week.
The downtown area – which includes Glenwood South and the Warehouse District as well as Fayetteville Street – added 38 storefront businesses last year. That’s a net gain of 21 more places to shop, drink and eat, and a 28 percent increase from 2011, according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s annual report.
Hillsborough Street Community Service Corp. director Jeff Murison said his district added 12 new businesses in 2012, mostly restaurants.
Of the newcomers to downtown, 16 were restaurants, nine sell clothing or furniture items, eight were health- and service-related, and five were art galleries or gift shops.
“We’re starting to see a lot more soft goods,” DRA director David Diaz said, pointing to shops such as the Estate clothing store on Dawson Street.
Those types of shops – clothing, gifts and home furnishings – will be a major focus for DRA’s recruitment efforts in 2013, along with bringing in more fast casual restaurants. A downtown grocery store, a long-sought amenity, is a possibility too. That would most likely happen southeast of the downtown core, far from the Cameron Village Harris Teeter, said economic development manager Paul Reimel.
Some vacant downtown storefronts will be harder to fill, Diaz noted. “We still have quite a few buildings that don’t meet building code, are blighted and still need a lot of work,” he said.
Over on Hillsborough Street, tax figures show food and beverage sales have increased 42 percent since the streetscape improvements wrapped up. Food and beverage sales there total $42 million annually, Murison said.
“We think that reflects highly on the investment the city made in the street,” he said. “The businesses are reporting to me that they’re doing quite well.”
One of the closings on Hillsborough, a scooter store, moved “because they were doing too well; they did not have enough showroom space,” Murison said.
Murison’s organization was created several years ago to serve a role similar to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. He said he’ll ask the council to increase his budget by $35,000 next year to help manage the races, festivals and other events that continue to grow on Hillsborough.