RALEIGH – Backers of Downtown Raleigh as a center for economic growth and development say the city is “ready and poised to rebound” from the economic havoc stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are challenges to overcome as well.

According to a new report from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, a pipeline of projects, the building of more residential units and investments such as the purchase of Dix Park point to a brighter future.

“While 2020 has tested the resolve of not only our nation but the entire world, Downtown Raleigh is ready and poised to rebound,” writes Dowtown Alliance CEO Bill King in the “State of Downtown” report.

“While that can be hard to see during the ongoing crisis, as the data and analysis in this report shows, Downtown Raleigh was one of the strongest submarkets in the entire region prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and those fundamentals remain in place.”

Bill King from his LinkedIn page

However the report also calls for change beyond COVID-19.

“In addition to COVID-19, 2020 brought with it a summer charged with political activism,” it declares. “The systemic mistreatment of Black Americans, long simmering, boiled into a national wave in late spring following a series of wrongful deaths across the United States.

“Despite the majority of demonstrations being peaceful, protests following the death of George Floyd in late May led to property damage in cities across the nation, including Raleigh. Businesses, residents, activists, and artists came together to turn an emotional low point into a canvas for unity, hope, resilience and growth for our community.”

Spread the growth

The report breaks down how investment has been and is planned to be spread across the city with Glenwood South topping the list followed closely by Seaboard/Person Street:

Downtown Raleigh Alliance graphic

Jobs and innovation growth

The number of employees at firms with Downtown operations also continues to grow with more planned. Many are tech-sector focused.

“Downtown is home to over 48,000 employees across all sectors and is projected to add 14,169 new employees if the existing downtown development pipeline is fully built out,” the report says.

“With potential new investments that make downtown even more attractive, such as mass transit, downtown’s employment growth could exceed these projections.”

The startup sector is growing, too. Notes the report:

  • 550+ startup companies, totaling 2,500+ jobs
  • $255 million angel and venture capital raised by Raleigh companies since 2016
  • $20 billion total exits/acquisitions of companies in Raleigh since 2015
  • $1.1 billion from IPOs generated by Raleigh companies since 2012
  • 2,250 tech employees added to downtown by Red Hat, Citrix, and Ipreo in the
    past six years
  • Rapidly growing downtown tech companies like BitSight, Pendo, LogMeIn,
    WalkMe, Personify, Second Nature, and Spectraforce are all in expansion mode
Call for ‘energy’

King, however, acknowledges in a letter inroducing the report that challenges to recovery remain.

“The effect and impact of the COVID-19 crisis will demand a strong response from our community to help Downtown Raleigh,” he points out.

“The same energy that revitalized this downtown will position this place to quickly rebound again. And our hope is that we not only come back, but do so stronger and more equitably than before, to make sure all members of our community still see themselves in the heart of this city.”

Wake County Economc Development also reports positive news

The positive spin of the report is support in part by other recent data.

Wake County Economic Development says numerous projects are underway or under consideration for Raleigh and to the county limits since Oct. 1 2019, citing data compiled as of Aug. 31:

New & Expanding Company Announcements: 77

  • Jobs: 5,976
  • Investment: $406 million

Total Projects received Since Oct. 2019: 81

  • Potential Jobs: 18,276
  • Potential Investment: $3.9 billion

Active Projects: 36

  • Potential Jobs: 7,454
  • Potential Investment: $1.5 billion
Outside praise

The report also notes how well Raleigh has performaed in numerous reports:

  • #1 BEST CITY FOR JOBS IN 2020 IN THE U.S. – Glassdoor, February 2020
  • #1 BEST CITY FOR NEW GRADS 2020 IN THE U.S. – Zumper, May 2020
  • #2 FASTEST-GROWING U.S. METRO FROM 2018-2019 IN THE U.S. –U.S. Census, March 2020
  • #2 HOTTEST LABOR MARKET IN THE U.S. – Wall Street Journal, March 2020
  • #5 LIFE SCIENCES EMPLOYMENT GROWTH (2010-2019) – Cushman & Wakefield, February 2020
  • #6 MOST RECESSION-RESISTANT CITY IN THE U.S. – SmartAsset, March 2020
Downtown Pipeline

More places to live continue to be built.  A chart from the report notes a series of projects – proposed and building – around Downtown:

Downtown Raleigh Alliance

The numbers

Positive factors on which to build are numerous, he notes, such as:

  • A “staggering” number of 3,123 residential units built since 2015
  • Two grocery stores in the past year
  • $1.2 billion in projects currently under construction or planned
  • The ourchase of Dix Park
  • Renovation of the Chavis Park community
  • Improvements in transit

Since 2015 and along with under cunstruction or planned developments, the report notes Downtown:

  • Is adding homes for more than 8,500 people
  • Office space totalling 3.68 million square feet
  • Capacity to support more than 15,000 workers
  • 661,000 square feet of retail space – enough to support more than 150 businesses and restaurants
  • More than 1,900 new hotel rooms

“Downtown Raleigh is the densest office market in the Triangle with more office space and employees per acre than any other submarket,” the report adds.

Some 66 projects have been announced or planned since 2017. the Alliance adds.