Downtown residents could see one of their long-standing retail wishes granted by next winter: a grocery store.
Plans are preliminary and subject to city approval, but Market Restaurant owner Chad McIntyre hopes to add a food market to his business plan when he relocates the restaurant to Person Street Plaza this year.
This wouldn’t be your big-box one-stop-shop. Located near William Peace University just outside of downtown Raleigh, the bodega-style store would focus on meat, dairy products and fresh produce from local farmers, McIntyre said. It would offer a few other amenities such as green cleaning supplies and locally made artisan soaps, but the idea is for shoppers to head to the plaza’s adjoining stores for their other needs, from alcohol to baked goods to dessert.
“We want to really get back to what small, independent stores used to be: really good at a few things, instead of only OK at a bunch of stuff,” McIntyre said.
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John Holmes, a vice president with Hobby Properties, which owns the plaza, confirmed that the company plans to make improvements and get new tenants in by late summer or early fall.
“We do have letters of intent signed on a significant amount of the place there,” he said.
Two that have signed letters are Escazu Artisan Chocolates and the Market Restaurant, he said. The 15,500-square-foot plaza is likely to include five to seven retail spaces. The company doesn’t yet know whether the project will require it to submit a site plan to the city.
Holmes said that the shell of the building is fine but that significant improvements will have to be made to the interior spaces as well as to each individual store front.
“We’re trying to make a unique design rather than the typical strip mall,” he said.
Downtown Raleigh has lacked a grocery store for years. First the Winn-Dixie near the Mordecai neighborhood burned down, then Capital City Grocery closed its doors at Seaboard Station about three years ago.
Person Street Plaza itself has seen more than a decade of hard times. The building that is set to house McIntyre’s new enterprise has stood vacant for six years, Holmes said.
But with Rapid Fitness expanding to a new location around the corner and Raleigh City Farm approved across the street, the neighborhood is gaining momentum.
“It’s going to be a very active area very soon,” city planner Trisha Hasch of the Urban Design Center said.
Such a shop would be “a really big step” in the Person Street Partnership’s plans to boost the business district, organizer Philip Bernard said. The group was formed last year to strategize ways to revitalize the area.
A neighborhood grocery store is more than just a place to shop, Bernard said.
“It’s a place for people to go and meet each other, to develop more personal neighborhood relationships,” he said.
McIntyre hopes to provide that community hub. A name for the store has not been finalized, and there’s still red tape to get through, McIntyre said, but he thinks Person Street would be a prime location. It offers higher traffic and visibility than his location three blocks away, plus the chance to expand.
“We’re trying to turn the whole area into one big welcome center, if you will, for downtown Raleigh,” McIntyre said. “This is where we’re going as a city, being positive with growth and the community trying to show that revitalization can be done on a small scale – it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking with corporate-backed money, it can be small businesses who take it on themselves to do something.”
Staff writer David Bracken contributed to this report.