Midtown Raleigh News

Hillsborough Street developments total $209 million, agency reports

Elizabeth Wilson picks up trash on Hillsborough Street in 2012. Wilson was part of the Clean and Safe Program, which this year has helped decrease litter on the street by 15 percent
Elizabeth Wilson picks up trash on Hillsborough Street in 2012. Wilson was part of the Clean and Safe Program, which this year has helped decrease litter on the street by 15 percent tiwabu@newsobserver.com

Hillsborough Street is on track to see $209 million in development projects during a three year period, according to a recent report from the district’s advocacy agency.

The Hillsborough Street Community Services Corp., formed in 2009 to promote business on the street, has released its annual report detailing the latest growth around N.C. State University’s front door.

The group’s director, Jeff Murison, says the outlook remains positive thanks in part to the streetscape improvements unveiled several years ago.

“We continue to see more foot traffic and more customers,” Murison said. “The vast majority of our merchants are reporting very good years, and in some cases the best year in a long time.”

A new apartment building opened this fall at 2604 Hillsborough St. with a Saxby’s Coffee shop on the ground floor. And early next year, developers will raze a cluster of storefronts across from the Bell Tower to build a $23 million Aloft Hotel, while developer John Kane builds the $78 million Stanhope Center student apartment complex down the street.

Murison’s report also touts several smaller redevelopment projects in the works. The former post office building on Horne Street is under renovation now, with a new Groucho’s Deli franchise scheduled to open in January. The building will also have a second retail storefront.

Further into the future, renovations are planned for the Raleigh Nehi Bottling Co. building, the Two Guys Pizza building and the former home of Hotbox Pizza, Murison said. The new apartment complex at Hillsborough and Morgan streets plans to expand with a second phase.

“In 2014, 2015 and 2016, there’s probably going to be between two to four redevelopment projects going on on the street at the same time,” Murison said.

The city’s decision to add bike lanes and shrink Hillsborough to two lanes helped make the street more attractive to shoppers and diners. But Murison’s agency – funded through a special property tax district – has also played a role in the success.

Murison runs a Clean and Safe Program, which is similar to the downtown ambassadors program run by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. Ambassadors in the Hillsborough Street program picked up 12,000 pounds of trash this year, according to the report, leading to a 15 percent drop in litter.

Graffiti, stickers and flyers posted along the street were down 30 percent from the previous year, with program staff removing 500 graffiti tags and 1,750 stickers and fliers.

“We’re out there making sure that the value (of the city’s investment in the street) is maintained,” Murison said.

Not all businesses on Hillsborough have thrived. Klara’s, a Czech restaurant, went out of business within a year of moving from Cary. Porter’s Tavern also shut down this year, but it was quickly replaced by McDaids Irish Pub.

“The space was never vacant,” Murison said. “That really speaks to the demand on the street.”

Still, the closings prompted concerns that higher-end restaurants struggle on the street that’s dominated by college students. Limited parking is a frequent complaint.

But with similar facelifts in the works for the western end of Hillsborough, Murison sees a rosy future for the area. “We’re really seeing Hillsborough Street take off as a new destination in Raleigh for retail, food and nightlife,” he said.