Economic Hope: Jimmy John’s in City Plaza

Subs in the Hub

January, 29, 2009, by Brian

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Jimmy John’s has confirmed its intention to be City Plaza’s first commercial tenant.  The sandwich shop will operate from the Northeast pavilion when the Plaza is opened in October. 

However, with all due respect to the purveyors of “the greatest sandwich in the world”, we have plenty of lunch in the downtown area - let’s get some retail in those other three pavilions!  As much as I hate to admit it, it’s time for Fayetteville Street to have some big name shopping again.  It would be nice if the City’s economy could be based entirely on local business, but that’s probably not going to happen for a long while.  In the meantime, people need options for buying stuff downtown.

So, NewRaleigh readers: what major retail outlets would you “like” to see on the 500 block?

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Downtown RaleighDevelopmentCity PlazaRetailDiningCity Plaza Raleigh


  • al
    01/29 03:37 PM

    Urban Outfitters

  • wha?!!?
    01/29 03:39 PM


  • richardfoc
    01/29 04:10 PM

    This is the big announcement they were pimping on the news this morning? Color me unimpressed.

    I also don’t think one or two retail spots in City Plaza will be enough. It’s all about density and the way downtown is developing this density will first be in population and then in retail. As more people move downtown (and that will happen as various condo projects are compelted) the retail will follow and hopefully people will be motivated to head downtown rather than to the mall.

  • BuckyK
    01/29 04:42 PM

    Retail expansion is set to a specific. Richardfoc is right. Retail comes from population downtown.

    Here is the other thing. Regardless of whatever retail comes downtown. Everybody who wants to see downtown become big better do all of their shopping there. I don’t care if it is Aeropostale. Every hipster needs to rock it!

    That is the only way more will come.

  • BuckyK
    01/29 04:43 PM

    *specific equation

  • rnb
    01/29 04:47 PM

    a mini-target. does such a thing exist?

  • richardfoc
    01/29 04:50 PM

    A mini-Target! I love that idea!

  • arthurb3
    01/29 04:54 PM

    With no support they will go out of business just like in the past: Conti’s Italian Market, The Wharehouse, City Grocery - the list goes on!

  • richardfoc
    01/29 04:57 PM

    Wasn’t The Warehouse a nightclub?

  • Meghan
    01/29 05:08 PM

    It will be very important for there to be a (coined by me) “big living” store, i.e. Target,  Harris Teeter. Downtown needs stores for people that live downtown to can use for daily errands. Even if it is a mini version. Yes corporate sucks but it is guaranteed to draw business and draw more people to stay and live in downtown Raleigh.

  • Jon
    01/29 05:39 PM

    Crate & Barrel

  • Johanna
    01/29 06:02 PM

    Anthropology would be amazing there!

  • BuckyK
    01/29 06:07 PM

    People first. Then retail. It’s the law!

    You need around 20,000 people living in a concentrated area before a big retailer will even look at you. Harris Teeter included.

    We don’t have that yet.

    It isn’t up to the city. It is up to the businesses.

    Hate to say it, but unused buildings, while “attractive,” “historic” and “modern” aren’t getting the job done. Hate to bring up fresh wounds!

    Isn’t a mini-Target an oxymoron?!

  • MMI
    01/29 06:16 PM

    I dunno, Arthur.  Each of those places you mentioned had a long list of other troubles that probably contributed as much to their closing as a “lack of support.”

  • Aaron
    01/29 07:08 PM

    I second the Urban Outfitters.

  • Doug
    01/29 07:17 PM

    American Apparel

  • Betsy
    01/29 07:38 PM

    A simple sandwich kiosk is what transformed Bryant Park in New York from a needle gallery to a top quality urban park. 

    The steps to Bryant Park’s transformation were few and simple—a view was opened up into the park by removing part of a high wall; a fine outdoor bar was placed at one side; and the sandwich kiosk was placed just inside the entry to the park, to lure passers-by in with simple, inexpensive food. 
    The same firm that produced the transformation of Bryant Park created the design for Raleigh’s City Plaza, including the retail kiosks. 
    They understood that simple, inexpensive retail and food service can’t locate in expensive structures; thus, the modest kiosks, which will have low overhead and low rents.
    This firm (actually a nonprofit) is Project for Public Spaces).  They are the best in the world. 
    Don’t be deceived:  Complex, expensive interventions rarely create great urban places. 
    Simple, accessible elements do much more: Sandwiches from a kiosk.  A few chairs that can be moved to sun or shade.  People to watch.

  • DBD
    01/29 07:49 PM

    Thanks for your comment, Betsy, that makes a lot of sense.

    I have often wished there was a bakery downtown.  I would love to be able to pick up a fresh baguette for dinner (or a yummy scone for breakfast).  We have Square Rabbit for butter-laden desserts but if I want fresh bread I have to drive down to Cameron Village, and that’s rarely what I want to do after a long day at work.  How about a little outpost of La Farm?  They already have booths at the State Farmer’s Market and the Moore Square Farmer’s Market.  If they also sell some prepared foods or fruit other tasty take-away bites (like a Dean & Deluca), all the better. 

    In non-food retail . . . I say Body Shop.  Their airport mini-shops are irresistable, might be similarly successful with busy office workers.

  • MMI
    01/29 08:48 PM

    LaFarm is a *great* idea—they are expanding, anyway.  If it’s soaps & such you’re lookin’ for, maybe I can get the GF to bring her handmade stuff in for a kiosk.  She’s opening a new store in GA as I type this, and her stuff has sold well here at various craft-y fairs & such.

  • Jim
    01/29 10:17 PM

    Where is the market for retail in downtown Raleigh?  There are about 7500 residents in downtown proper.  A good way to lose money would be to try to open a UO/American Apparel in one of those kiosks.

  • siler
    01/30 01:01 AM

    au bon pain would be a good choice for an urban open space.
    I have been to a few that thrive with outdoor seating.

  • jim
    01/30 02:44 AM

    sounds like you folks want to trade the chain stores of nc for the chain stores of manhattan.

  • MMI
    01/30 02:53 AM

    Jim, whatever your profession, I think you missed your true calling as a greeting card writer.

  • lizounette
    01/30 09:02 AM

    I’d love to see a Zara come to Raleigh… or H&M

  • scoop
    01/30 09:25 AM

    What does the 500 block need? What does every block need? More residents. 

    Then way this would be a relevant conversation. All or nearly all of the companies everyone talks about wanting to come so badly are going to continue refusing to come to Downtown without higher residential density.

  • Betsy
    01/30 11:11 AM

    Sure, scoop, that’s right; retail follows residential.  And one of the biggest drivers of residential demand is quality public space, such as parks and plazas.

    After Bryant Park was rescued, almost immediately the demand for residential soared around that block, and now it is among the most sought-after areas to live.
    The best single thing Raleigh (as a city) could do for its downtown is reclaim those squares as superb parks, through (relatively subtle) changes in programming and physical improvements. 
    The City Plaza design, including the creation of retail & food service kiosks, is a good example of a commitment to quality public spaces.  It will pay off soon.  Maybe not immediately, but soon.

  • john
    01/30 02:39 PM

    Sandwiches gross me out. I am not a fan of them.

  • corey3rd
    01/31 07:59 PM

    Judging from how many people are getting laid off in the retail industry, it’s hard to imagine too many places are eager to tackle an untested retail space. Even Starbucks is taking a hit and firing people. I can’t even think of one retail store that’s claiming they’re making a fortune this season - outside of Pink Slips Etc.

    The only thing that might have really worked is an Apple Store, but since they’re in Crabtree - it’s pointless.

    Thus we get a sub shop. Which is nice, but what’s the point of anyone not on Fayetteville Street dropping by there when they can drive to a sub shop (even a Jimmy Johns) in a nearby shopping mall that has plenty of free spaces without the Parking Nazis chalking their tires.

    A sub shop will appeal to the folks coming down to the Convention Center to pay $5 to stare at cars and boats. And what’s the point of a car show that doesn’t have Adam West signing autographs?

  • Cindy H.
    02/01 11:06 AM

    I think I am naive but what I would like to see—and I’m sure I mentioned this in a previous comment along the same line of commentary—is local community-runned places.

    I had the priviledge of doing a nosh tour of Queens a few years ago and I was mesmerized by the number of local, ethnic businesses.  I wanted to have that in my backyard.

    So NY is more of a melting pot than Raleigh but we do have our share of diversity.  Why couldn’t we have a local market that targeted, say, Latin America…and another for Asian food? And another for whatever else?

    Throw in some really cool eclectic shops, including thrift shops.  A couple of book stores *and* a library?

    Wouldn’t that be enough to give downtown a nice community feel *and* provide thriving businesses?

  • D
    02/01 02:56 PM

    Hi All,

    I have lived in various cities in my life (Madrid, London, Washington DC, Syracuse NY, Brussels—retired military) and there is something that people here don’t seem to get.  This is not a negative or an insult, but Raleigh is a small city with a small city majority population attitude.  It is not as cosmo as most people seem to think or convince themselves.  The art museum here is great, but guess what, hardly anyone goes (I go at least 2 or 3 times a week).  Go to the mall, sporting events, etc and boom—population mindset in bloom.  Raleigh/Cary is a place where people move to get away from diversity, fast pace city life, etc.  If you ask anyone who has lived in a city (not the suburbs, but the city) to compare and contrast Raleigh and Durham, they will tell you Durham has more of the city vibe—but because of demographics (i.e race) it is the regional bastard stepchild. This is a curious situation and I plan to explore it more (I’ve only lived here for a year).  So in summation, business don’t survive downtown for one simple reason, the majority of the population is to insular and they like it that way.  Most of my neighbors—people who have lived here all there lives, hardly ever go downtown—by choice.

    Again, not a negative but just what I see as I take notes for a book I’m writing about the area.

  • MMI
    02/01 05:01 PM

    You’re not far off, D.  Ask any Durham-ite, and they are likely to respond fiercely in support of what you are saying.  I mildly disagree, but only to point out that I think Raleigh could easily have the best of the vibe that Durham has, if only it would try.

    Maybe we’d be better off if we just excised Cary like the tumor that it is.  :) 

    Yes, that’s a joke, meant to rile those silly Cary-ites.  Cary is much less a tumor than a calcified abscess.  It has walled itself off from the rest of the body in an attempt to prevent “infection” by the rest of the area.  Sadly, it does not realize that this is a sure way for the host to grow around it, and eventually eliminate the abscess from the body.  Then again, that may be why it keeps trying to metastasize to the rest of the community through annexation and the addition of yet another strip mall.

    This metaphor has been brought to you by the letter R, and a restless desire to get the Super Bowl started.

  • corey3rd
    02/01 05:02 PM

    I was reminded last night of one store that is having a good year and would be perfect for a 1,000 ft. retail space: HOT TOPIC.

  • D
    02/01 05:56 PM


    Astute observation on Cary.  Seems like Raleigh is in a violent struggle with itself to either be like Cary or try and forge it’s own identity. 

    I agree Raleigh could have the Durham vibe and then some, but it goes back to the populace and what they REALLY want.  From what I’ve seen, the masses are really vibing on andie and opie—-(aww man if you get that, then i am really funny).

  • Enigma
    02/01 06:02 PM

    Major retailers left downtown Raleigh long ago for the exact reason they won’t be back for a long time, the lack of people living downtown.  When people started moving out of downtown seeking a better way of life, lower cost of living with less crime, the retailers slowly followed.  This phenomenon wasn’t unique to Raleigh.  Cities that successfully reversed this are the ones with forward thinking progressive leaders.  Until the leadership of Raleigh (and the small town thinking residents) stop fighting with developers on the minute details of new projects, and become more concerned with the economic benefits of development, Raleigh will never have a chance.  Since NewRaleigh is now advocating big retail versus the strict mom-and-pop-local-only position in the past, I have hopes Raleigh does actually has a chance.  Does anyone know how much taxpayer subsidy (free or reduced rent or tenant improvement money) Jimmy John’s may have received to open?

  • MMI
    02/01 06:10 PM

    Incentives don’t have to be taxpayer-driven.  The GF lives in a mid-sized town elsewhere that is seeking to redevelop their own downtown area. She just secured a downtown space at a GREATLY reduced price.  Not because the city financed it, but because the landlord wants someone in that space.  Anyway, perhaps the owner of that space owns other properties, and is willing to have a loss-leader to get some biz down there.

  • D
    02/01 08:22 PM


    Madrid, Syracuse NY to cite to examples have a surviving downtown without BIG retailers.  You visit these cities and downtown is crowded with local stores with eclectic tastes.  Big retailers aren’t open late at night and don’t invite city citizens to come in as a community—only as dollars.  I’m sure you are well traveled and have seen this any many cities.  Downtown “old town” Alexandria, VA is another—-local and regional shops that promote community over commerce.  Also as other people have said on other boards, to get people to move downtown you have to convince them that it is better to pay 300K for a condo in Raleigh versus the same 300K in more “established” cities with a metro, subway, established transportation that everyone rides (not just homeless, poor, and minorities).  With the economy hovering on a death bed, many may choose to move farther into the suburbs for cheaper prices.

  • phil
    02/02 06:15 PM

    downtown raleigh is not good.  with the abundance of male prostitutes, crack heads, homeless, and ZERO parking.  i was born in raleigh and have seen may things change in downtown.  but the one constant is the above-mentioned ills.

    and you wonder why few people (over thage age of 25) want to live there.

    it makes me sick.

  • MMI
    02/02 07:36 PM

    Well, there are homeless there (it’s a city, what do you expect) and parking *is* an issue (again, it’s a freakin’ city), but I’m a little clueless about the male prostitutes.  I mean—you could probably just say “prostitutes” and cover all the bases, but why single out the hustlers?  Besides, the only place I have ever seen what I would call male prostitutes has been on the corner of Hargett & Harrington.

    For the record, I am over 25 (by a fair margin), and I really like living ITB.

  • Robert Woodard
    02/03 12:59 AM

    Male Prostitutes?

    Well if a bunch of male whores don’t give downtown that elusive, big-city feel, then I will be damned if I know what will!

  • corey3rd
    02/03 01:04 AM

    every Joe Buck in the Piedmont makes their way to the big city when the General Assembly is in session.

    perhaps with this development, the second tenant should be Jiffy Lube

  • MMI
    02/03 01:11 AM

    I see only one problem with that, corey—very few of those under 25 (and that’s apparently the key demographic, according to phil) are going to realize just who the hell Joe Buck is.  Well, at least not the Joe Buck you happen to be talking about.

  • josh
    02/03 03:50 PM

    I would just LOVE for them to open a fixed-gear bike shop!  So me and my pseudo-hipster friends could all buy a new one to put stickers on about how much we love the earth.  But if that doesn’t work, most of the above mentioned stored will also suffice for our wanna-be needs.


    Come on people…if you want successful retail it needs to have a broader reach than the 20-something hipsters.  I agree with the idea that a “living” store is probably as safe of a bet as can be made.

  • MMI
    02/03 04:01 PM

    What about “Man Whores R Us?”

  • Betsy
    02/04 10:50 AM

    Robert Woodard, you are a stitch!!

  • Joshua
    02/06 05:36 PM

    i agree that local businesses would be best. a mix of small and big. but we gotta start somewhere and bigger businesses might bring more people at first. things cameron village doesn’t have for example: Barnes and Noble, or Borders. GAP, URBN, American Apparel, H&M, Levi’s, mini-Target! love the library comment Cindy H made. and it is indeed a shame our art museum and arena aren’t downtown too. that really hurt the downtown prospects. i hope the convention center and meymandi fill some of that void.

  • Celia Fate
    02/12 12:49 AM

    i’d just be tickled if the dang CVS was open after 6 and/or on weekends.

  • John
    07/13 11:25 AM

    Retail that “goes it alone” will not be successful anywhere downtown.  In order for the shoppers to be enticed to come downtown, they are going to need options and varitey.  A “one-sy/two-sy” approach would surely be a disaster.
    Someone needs to assemble a large amount of RE and market it collectively. Retailers rely on a variety of stores to bring people into their stores.  Nobody is going to go DT to shop at just one store unless it’s REALLY a special store.  And, in my opinion, those special stores aren’t going to make the commitment without significant activity.
    While the options to make this happen on Fay. Street are limited, there are tons of other opportunities in the several downtown districts.  Here are my suggestions:
    1. Assemble the land between the West condo and Peace street between Capital Blvd and West St. Create a walkable outdoor retail community like a denser North Hills but top the retail with a few floors of housing.  Like N. Hills, include a hidden parking structure, hotel and multi-plex movie theater.
    2. Assemble land on the SE corner of the Warehouse District (across from where the amphitheater is going to be placed).  Mimic the idea from idea #1 above.  If this could effectively be pulled off, then that would encourage a walkable community between the greater Fayetteville Street area and the Warehouse District.  The success of this scenario would encourage high end/specialty retailers to take the limited available retail space on Fayetteville Street.

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