Lewis “Dusty” Dewberry will soon close his business, Dusty’s Service Center, at the corner of West and Lenoir streets south of downtown.
Two years ago, developer James A. Goodnight bought the building where Dusty’s, an auto detailing shop, has operated since the early 1980s. He plans to remodel the site for a new tenant.
Lambert Development, a New York company, is building a 12-unit townhome project across the street from Dusty’s. A block away, the company wants to build 42 condominiums.
The area south of downtown Raleigh near Boylan Heights was once a busy neighborhood filled with local businesses. But it fell into disrepair in the 1980s and ’90s, when much of downtown struggled.
Now developers see the neighborhood as one of the next pockets for redevelopment in Raleigh’s thriving downtown.
Dewberry, 69, says he understands change is inevitable but he’s sad to close his business, which serves as a neighborhood hangout. He and his friends from the former segregated Ligon High School sit around and talk.
“It’s just like family over here,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of people with nowhere to go.”
Other downtown neighborhoods have already seen big seen changes over the years. The Person Street area near Krispy Kreme transformed from a nearly forgotten neighborhood to a thriving destination with bars, restaurants and new residences.
At the northern end of downtown near William Peace University, developers have plans for new apartments and grocery stores.
On the south side of downtown, new development will eliminate some old storefronts that rent for cheap. The area is near Heritage Park, a neighborhood of affordable-housing units.
The proposed condo project, called 611 West South, would feature a range of units, from small flats that cost nearly $300,000 to three-story residential buildings for about $600,000, said Johnny Chappell, owner of Chappell Residential, which has worked with Lambert Development on several local projects.
“I think it’s going to be a real game-changer for that portion of downtown,” Chappell said.
More to come
The surrounding neighborhood continues to change. In 2012, the city gave permission to a developer to build 20 single-family homes on a 1.4-acre site on nearby Dorothea Drive. They overlook Western Boulevard, a sign of more things to come.
A self-storage company has announced plans to build a facility on a 1-acre site that used to be an old garage at 410 W. South Street.
The future of the site of Dusty’s Service Center is uncertain.
“We’re working on something exciting there, but it’s a couple of months too early,” said Goodnight, the son of Jim Goodnight, the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Cary-based software company SAS. “It’s a really cool old space, and we plan to do something really nice with it.”
Dewberry and his wife, Barbara, have seven children. One of his sons works with him at the car shop, which also features a small convenience store.
Dewberry said he and his muscle car were once featured in a rap music video by Greenville artist Petey Pablo.
For him, closing the business is tough.
“I love it, but you move on,” he said.
Excited for change
Around the corner from Dusty’s, 92-year-old David Stewart has watched the neighborhood change since he opened his Kirby vacuum shop on West South Street in June 1953.
Stewart owns the strip of storefronts that now includes a clothing shop, the Men at Work Barber Shop and the Boulted Bread bakery.
Stewart spent his earliest years in Raleigh; his father worked at an airfield where the Raleigh Golf Association course sits today on Tryon Road. He served as a pilot during World War II and later attended N.C. State University. After living in Kentucky for several years, he returned to the City of Oaks.
“I wanted to live in Raleigh in particular,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest cities in the world.”
As an investment, Stewart began buying land in the 1970s around his shop and in several other North Carolina towns.
“Anything I could possibly buy, I bought,” Stewart said. “I was called the biggest fool in Raleigh, because they said this area wouldn’t amount to anything.”
He sold a parcel on South Saunders Street to Lambert Development for about $300,000 for the condo project, according to city records.
He says he’s glad the neighborhood is improving, and he’s excited to see what might happen next.
“I love this neighborhood,” Stewart said. “It’s a great neighborhood. I’ve seen so many positive things come out of the neighborhood and this is just the beginning.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi