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State of Downtown Raleigh report highlights growth, future
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By Evan Matsumoto, WRAL.com editor
Raleigh, N.C. — With a booming population and ever-expanding office space, Raleigh city leaders are boasting of a downtown that has bloomed into a vibrant hub for business, food and entertainment, according to city’s State of Downtown Raleigh report released Tuesday.
Since 2014, downtown residential population has grown 35 percent, which is credited for a 95 percent apartment occupancy rate. Co-working spaces have popped up around the city, and visitors to the top downtown attractions — the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Marbles Kids Museum and the Raleigh Convention Center, among other — has jumped 46 percent since 2007.
“In the last decade, downtown Raleigh has reinvented itself,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane wrote in the report. “Transitioning from a quiet main street pedestrian mall with a small retail base and few residents to the center of a city that keeps finding itself on the top of national lists for best places to live, work and play.
Downtown Raleigh, which is made up of six districts, has now pulled in 13 James Beard Award nominations for chefs and restaurants since 2010, boasts a high walkability score and is home to 113 retailers, according to the report. The “historic growth” puts Raleigh in the middle of $3 billion in development since 2005.
Last year alone, 24 new restaurants opened, and food and beverage sales totaled $223 million — a 10 percent bump from 2016 and 95 percent higher than 2009.
McFarlane said the report highlights the work done by city leaders over the last decade-plus, but it also gives a vision for where the City of Oaks is heading.
“Just as Raleigh leaders of the past had a vision for the vibrant downtown we enjoy today, today’s leaders continue to look to the future,” she wrote.
“Our new multi-modal center, Raleigh Union Station, opened in the spring of 2018. Working with the broader community, the Wake Transit Plan will bring Bus Rapid Transit and commuter rail to downtown in the near future.”
Future plans also include more opportunities for public use of greenspaces and renovations to current attractions like Moore Square.