This is a question echoed from the sidewalks of Fayetteville Street. to the offices of City Council. To find an answer, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance engaged MJB Consulting, (a NY-based national retail planning and real estate concern) to do a Retail Market Analysis & Positioning Strategy for Downtown Raleigh. They gathered data over a six-month period from August 2008 through February 2009.
This is what they found.
Daytime office workers will typically provide support throughout the weekday for various quick-service food concepts, where diners submit, pay and receive their order at a counter (e.g. Chick-Fil-A, Quiznos Sub, Port City Java.), specialty beverage purveyors (e.g. Starbucks, Morning Times), and other convenience oriented businesses (e.g. CVS and the UPS Store).
So why aren’t there more options available like these?
The study drew the following conclusions:
1. Too far to walk from Capital District . . .
Most government buildings are located in the Capital District, which was never designed to include retail space. Workers tend not to wander far for lunch or other conveniences, where the rule-of-thumb is that the typical office employee will not walk further than six minutes, and the Capital District’s distance from Fayetteville Street makes it too far to walk.
2. Faster to drive for Government workers . . .
Government workers typically enjoy cheaply priced reserved parking spaces, so these workers find it is faster to drive to lunch or for other errands to the automobile friendly places in Cameron Village, or Sunflowers Sandwich Shoppe or Seaboard Cafe off Peace Street.
3. Government workers have no time to take the bus . . .
With the Downtown Raleigh Circulator/”The R Line”, government workers potential reach has been widened, but with just two buses plying the roughly twenty-minute route at any one time, it can only operate on headways of ten minutes, and could easily veer off schedule. Workers on break do not have a moment to waste, and such issues of frequency and reliability would likely minimize its use for this purpose.
4. Lack of convenience store size spaces in the Fayetteville Street District . . .
The Fayetteville District has collected a number of convenience oriented businesses given the presence of workers located within the large corporate office towers. However, a key limitation on worker-oriented retail in the Fayetteville District is the lack of 1,200- 1,400 sq.ft. spaces with appropriate dimensions on Fayetteville Street, with the excessive depths resulting in several cases in unusable square-footage in the back. Landlords are hesitant to split those bays because they are not confident that the levels of foot traffic on the parallel streets — Wilmington Street and Salisbury Street — would be sufficient to attract interest.
5. Residential population is too small . . .
Offerings for the worker are also limited by Downtown Raleigh’s still relatively small residential population. Many types of businesses struggle to survive on just Downtown’s weekday-lunch trade alone, and yet, they do not see the number of rooftops that would justify later opening hours. This hinders, for example, efforts to attract the newest wave of quick-service food concepts, the “fast-casual” restaurants (e.g. Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Noodles and Company). There is clearly a demand for this sort of concept among Raleigh’s daytime workers, however the lack of sufficient residential density in Downtown Raleigh discourages those fast-casual brands that also rely on quick-service evening trade.
The study seems to conclude that the large population of daytime workers cannot translate into more retail by itself, and must depend on other customer types (event goers, residents, destination shoppers), which will be discussed in future posts to this blog.
Bringing more retail to our Downtown core is clearly a desire of people who work and live downtown. So what do you think?