Downtown Raleigh seems to be recovering from the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to Bill King, the CEO and President of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for businesses and residents located in the downtown area, at a State of Downtown presentation at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts this afternoon. 

“After a year and a half, the question is often ‘How are we doing?’ How is downtown?'” King said as he presented the agency’s annual State of Downtown report

“In so many ways, things have finally started to get better. Since spring, food and beverage sales have soared, since vaccinations became widespread. Pedestrian traffic has continued to build and is now well above levels from a year ago and approaching pre-pandemic levels.”

According to the report, new businesses have replaced many of the restaurants and stores that closed permanently during the COVID-19 shutdown. Since the start of 2021, 37 new businesses have opened, a 61 percent increase over last year. The total number of restaurants and retailers today is about on par with the amount operating in 2019. 

In the meantime, development has continued to increase rapidly. Since 2015, more than $4.9 billion has been invested in projects that are either completed, under construction, or planned for the future. In the past year, $2.1 billion was poured into the development of office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail space. 

Major developments include Tower Two, a $108 million office building that was completed in April; Raleigh Crossing, a $160 million office building currently under construction; and the redevelopment of Seaboard Station, a $250 million project that could usher in the construction of 650 apartments, 150 hotel rooms, and 90,000 square feet of retail. 

“We still have work to do. We still have business owners working to get back on their feet and recover from months of lower sales and transactions,” King said. “But overall, things have been looking up.” 

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