Empire Eats is buying the Olde Raleigh Chinese Buffet building just off of Capital Boulevard, the N&O reports. The short lived Chinese Buffet was no success, taking over a year to open and and lacking any relevant external branding for their specialty, the restaurant still looked more like Hideaway BBQ than a Chinese restarant. The area is largely a retail sink hole with a successful but low-end flea market and other low income focused businesses. Hideaway and Olde Raleigh were doomed. Other retail losses include the the recent closing of the bowling alley a block away. The distinctly un-urban setting just hasn't lent itself to cross pollination or business synsergy. For Empire the N&O says Empire's CEO Greg Hatem said the "building is ideal to use a catering kitchen since it is close to the highway and close to downtown." That non-public facing use is perfect for now, we imagine some of the equipment is even in line with the Pit's kitchen needs, but make no mistake: catering is a temporary use for the building. Ultimately one of the few redeveloped commercial properties between the city and 440 the location represents a near-term potential gold mine as city planning moves to implement changes to the area.
Empire has long been the primary successor for undervalued properties on the verge of neighborhood revitalization. With big success downtown and in the warehouse district, Empire's strategic development and smart real estate deals tend to feed of of one another. The real estate company has been able to construct ladders of redevelopment that coincide with the city's investment. The city has spent the last few years working on revisions to a new plan for Capital Boulevard- while some of the details are in flux, the future may bring light rail, new greenways and the rethought traffic patterns. If those changes pan out, this is the next area of opportunity for commercial developers like Empire.