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It’s been more than six months since protests on a Saturday night in May in downtown Raleigh led business owners to board up their storefronts in order to avoid more damage. Already reeling from statewide shutdowns due to COVID-19, preserving their property was a top priority for business owners.
And while the threat of more destruction loomed throughout the summer, nothing like the damage on that first night of protests came to pass again—and yet, 180 days later, business fronts all over downtown are still boarded up. If we want our local businesses, the fabric of city and of our downtown to rebound, we have to get rid of the plywood. Businesses that are open should feel reassured that it’s safe to take the boards down, while those that have permanently shuttered, such as Kimbrell’s on Fayetteville Street and Royale on Blount Street, should see their landlords advertising prime real estate space without wooden planks obscuring the windows. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance, in partnership with Duke Energy, is offering storefront revitalization grants to business owners who need to make repairs due to damage related to the protests—but that’s not enough. City leaders, our elected officials, need to be meeting with business owners and landlords and encouraging them—convincing them— to take down the plywood boards. They must reassure them that, in the event of more protests, their businesses will be safe. As the holidays descend and folks head downtown to (safely) shop, eat and visit with friends, downtown Raleigh should feel welcoming once again, not eerie and abandoned. Downtown’s recovery is long overdue. The boards have got to go.
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