Wake County

2017 was a record-breaking year for downtown Raleigh

Daniel Benjamin, center, arranges baked goods in lucettegrace on Dec. 29, 2014.
Daniel Benjamin, center, arranges baked goods in lucettegrace on Dec. 29, 2014. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Plenty of people enjoyed downtown Raleigh’s growing number of restaurants and bars last year.

Downtown set a record for food and drink sales in 2017 with $223 million, according to a new report from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. That’s an increase of more than 10 percent from 2016, which saw $202 million in sales, and a jump of more than 50 percent from 2012.

Nine businesses opened in downtown Raleigh in the last quarter of 2017, including four restaurants and a bar, and three restaurants have already opened this year, the report says.

Meanwhile, four businesses, including the restaurant Provenance, closed in the last three months of 2017.

“Some of (the increase) is we’ve had a lot of restaurants open over the last couple of years, so there’s more options,” said Bill King, senior vice president of economic development and planning for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. “But we’re really becoming a dining destination regionally where people plan on and make an effort to come to downtown Raleigh to eat here.”

Restaurants and bars downtown saw the highest sales in May, June, August and October last year, the report says. November was the only month that didn’t see a bump over 2016.

Warehouse District

It was a good year for the Warehouse District, which spans from South Dawson Street to South Boylan Avenue and Western Boulevard to West Morgan Street.

The area saw a 53 percent increase in food and beverage sales from 2013, and the upswing will likely continue with the opening of The Dillon later this year. The 17-story tower will feature about half a dozen restaurants, including the just-announced O-Ku Sushi and 220,000 square feet of office space.

Union Station, the city’s $80 million transit hub, is also expected to open soon in the Warehouse District.

“People are now seeing it as a destination instead of just being one or two outliers,” King said of the district. “It’s got its own vibe to it. ... It feels urban, feels interesting and visually looks different because of the warehouses and brick buildings.”

Of the five downtown districts, Glenwood South and Fayetteville Street each saw 33 percent of the food and beverage sales last year. Moore Square saw 21 percent, the Warehouse District saw 9 percent and the capital district saw 3 percent.

Other highlights

Here are a few other highlights from the downtown report:

▪ The year-end office occupancy rate was 94.7 percent. That’s the second time it’s hit more than 90 percent since 2010.

▪ The value og public investment started or underway in 2017 was $137 million. The number for private investment was $288 million.

▪ Two grocery stores are in the works: Weaver Street Market plans to open in The Dillon by late 2018, and Publix is set to open on Peace Street on the northern end of downtown in 2019.

▪ More than 20 street-level businesses have either announced plans or are confirmed to open in the coming months. They include retail stores, restaurants and bars.

▪ There are 825 residential units under construction and more than 900 planned for the near future.

▪ Nearly 1,000 hotel rooms are planned or under construction, which doesn’t include the 175 rooms at the Residence Inn by Marriott that opened last summer.

You can read the full report online at www.godowntownraleigh.com.