As a Raleigh native and someone who is vested in the local economy, it pains me to see the current state of Fayetteville Street. Over the years and especially after opening the pedestrian mall area in 2006, Fayetteville Street emerged as a hub of activity, with offices, residential condos, retailers, restaurants, and bars throughout. In 2002 I graduated high school and our graduation was at Memorial Auditorium. I’ll never forget taking pictures outside and how eerily quiet the surrounding downtown area was. At that time, the only livelihood was Progress Energy and government offices, that’s all.
Since 2020, it is no secret that Fayetteville Street has struggled immensely. Many retailers and office tenants have left. Safety is an issue. The environment has become so bad, that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance recently announced a study called the Economic Development Strategy for Downtown Raleigh (https://downtownraleigh.org/do-business/economic-development-strategy). For 12 months, a Pennsylvania company called Interface Studio (http://interface-studio.com/) will study the area and offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve the area. All at a cost of $250,000 (funded by the American Rescue Act). Interface has been in business since 2004 and past projects include cities and areas throughout our country. A mission statement on their website states “Our mission is to help communities, large and small, think about where they are now, what they would like to become, and which steps are needed to get there.” I do think this is a step in the right direction but more can be done from the local level.
First, the State of North Carolina and the City of Raleigh need to mandate at least a hybrid office working schedule. More employees in downtown Raleigh and the Fayetteville Street area will create a demand for retailers, etc. More traffic in the area will help with safety issues. Second, the City Council and Mayor need to be proactive with current property owners and businesses in and around the area. There are many successful small businesses that most likely have reasonable, objective suggestions on how to improve the area. Listen and respond. Third, the City needs to enhance visibility through new lighting and landscaping. Install energy-efficient LED lights and prune the trees. Fourth, our public services need the resources it takes to keep up with a growing city. With over 3.5 million visitors annually*, we need to create budgets and resources for the present and not the past.
There is too much already invested in Fayetteville Street and Downtown Raleigh for it not to succeed. Now is the time to act!
*2022 State of Downtown Raleigh, DRA