Business booming in downtown Raleigh as construction begins on record-breaking office building

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Business has been so good for Calavera Empanadas and Tequila that the restaurant has moved into a bigger space.

“We’ve done things like expand the menu, put on a couple more entrees, offer our empanadas. We’re also doing tacos,” bartender Michael Rolon said.

The restaurant and the downtown area around it have grown in the eight years its been in business. That includes a major construction project right across from its Morgan Street location.

“I’m thinking that, once we get more of this construction dying down and office spaces that are coming and the businesses that are coming, we’ll be able to provide our services to new audiences,” Rolon said.

Much of that newer clientele Rolon is referring to will come from the people who will eventually work in the 929,000 square-foot downtown office space currently under construction. That’s a record for downtown Raleigh. That doesn’t include the $1 billion in construction already completed in just the last four years.

Existing office space is currently more than 95 percent occupied. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance said part of the draw is a strong local economy and having three top-tier research universities nearby.

“What we say is you can have the same type of world-class talent you have in other cities, but here in Raleigh, it’s also more affordable, so our downtown is still more affordable than other major cities around the country,” said Downtown Raleigh Alliance CEO Bill King.

In the heart of downtown, Briggs Hardware is getting ready to celebrate its 155th anniversary. As the store is now stocked for Christmas, shopper Ellen Davis says she’s seen it go from a ghost town to what it is today.

“It’s like I go home one night and come back and blink (and) there’s another highrise,” she said.

Davis does worry about what seems to be the biggest complaint from most people: traffic and parking.

“It’s going to be incredible to watch. Retail, it gets better every day. But, as far as traffic and infrastructure, I don’t know if we can handle it,” she said.

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