The vast parking lot of the Gateway Plaza shopping center off Capital and Crabtree boulevards is currently riddled with potholes, and the 1960s-era buildings are showing their age.
But, if a local real estate group is successful, this shopping center north of downtown could become the next neighborhood gathering space for East Raleigh, where locals can grab artisanal coffee, craft beer and a bite to eat.
If current schedules hold out, Gateway Plaza could look and feel a lot differently by October.
Construction work will start this month on the building’s facade and landscaping, as well as the replacement of its large parking lot, which could be completed by Labor Day, said John Koonce, senior vice president of retail services for York Properties, who is helping lease the center.
The 6.8-acre shopping center was once home to Cause for Paws thrift shop, several hair salons, a pawn shop and a laundromat. It's bordered by a Greyhound bus station, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and several neighborhoods that have recently caught the attention of investors.
A local real estate group, which includes Russ Jones and Henry Ward, partners with Loden Properties in Raleigh, bought the shopping center for $3.45 million in 2016, according to county records.
Koonce describes the redevelopment as a chance to take advantage of the growing residential base in the area.
"As expenses ... have piled up in the core of Raleigh lots of residential is spilling out to East Raleigh and north of downtown Raleigh,” Koonce said. “Old neighborhoods are being invested in and there’s a need for a neighborhood center where you can eat, shop and drink.”
To do that, York is hoping to attract unique retailers that want cheaper rents than what can be found in downtown.
“We want to provide a place to land for people who are starting out. We don’t want to create a large threshold for entry,” Koonce said. “There are lots of unique opportunities that can’t sustain $30 per square foot, but can talk at $18 per square foot.”
Koonce declined to reveal all of the tenants that have been signed for the shopping center, but several area already public. They include:
▪ Union Special, a new bakery run by the baker behind the bread at all of chef Ashley Christensen's restaurants
▪ Brew Coffee, a Raleigh-based coffee shop that has a shop at Seaboard Station. This would be the third location for the coffee shop, which also serves alcohol in the evening.
▪ Craft Habit, a store and workshop for DIY crafters
▪ Mordecai Brewery, a small brew pub
An unnamed coffee roastery also plans on opening at the shopping center.
In addition, York is working on creating up to 25,000 square feet of co-working space and signing another restaurant.
Gateway Restaurant, Carmen’s Fashion and Arrow Pawn Shop — all current tenants — will remain open.
The redevelopment of the shopping center also will include planting 100 trees in its parking lot and along the sidewalks in an effort to bring more shade to the property.
“It sort of flies in the face of traditional retail because if you put trees up it can block the view from the road,” he said. “But it is currently a desert of asphalt.”
With more trees people can enjoy being outside for food and drinks, he added.