• What's This?
    Mixed media artist and clothing designer Marie Cordella is just one of the 40 artists whose work can be viewed at ArtSpace, a visual art center that features 23 open studios, three exhibition galleries, lectures, classes and many other stimulating art events.
  • What's This?
    North Carolina State Capitol
    The North Carolina State Capitol, completed in 1840, is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a major civic building in the Greek Revival style of architecture. It is a National Historic Landmark.
  • What's This?
    Blount Street was once home to rich industrialists and prominent civic leaders, as evidenced by these beautiful, historic homes. Nearby Blount Street Commons, currently under construction, will soon add even more residences, retail shops and parks.
  • What's This?
    Father and Son Antiques
    Father and Son Antiques is home to a bounty of collectables and oddities, from mid-century designs and vintage threads to '50s kitch, tiki, mod, and much more.
  • What's This?
    Wachovia IMAX Theater
    This architectural sculpture marks the entrance of the Wachovia IMAX Theater at Marbles Kids Museum, which provides a larger-than-life movie experience for kids of all ages.
  • What's This?
    Raleigh Times Bar
    The Raleigh Times Bar is located in the beautifully restored 100-year-old former home of the city's evening newspaper. Featuring creative takes on classic bar fare, and an amazing beer selection.


Resources For Starting a New Business

How can we help you open a new business in downtown Raleigh?

Data and information

See our pages Why Downtown Raleigh, Reports, Plans and Publications, Developments, and the Downtown Plan’s Retail Strategy to find information that can help with understanding the market, business planning, etc. For additional, more granular data on downtown development and retail, please contact Bill King at billking@downtownraleigh.org

Financing and Incentives:

DRA Retail Up-Fit Grant

DRA offers a grant to help with interior renovations, improvements and build-outs of storefronts for retailers only. Eligible business include apparel, shoes, home furnishings, specialty food retail, pharmacies, bookstores, electronics and many other consumer goods. Restaurants, bars and offices are not eligible to apply.

Eligible costs include:

  • Design work, drawings, renderings associated with the project
  • Mechanical, electrical, plumbing work for the build-out
  • HVAC, fire suppression, costs of bringing building up to current code
  • Permits and inspections
  • Flooring
  • Lighting
  • Attached fixtures and/or the installation of fixtures
  • Accessibility compliance
  • Environmental remediation
  • Restrooms
  • Utility upgrades
  • Construction of new walls/demolition of unnecessary existing walls

Please see our page on the retail up-fit grant for more information, requirements, and application. Contact Bill King at billking@downtownraleigh.org or 919 821-6980 for more information.


Facade Grant Program

The City of Raleigh’s Façade Grant Program helps businesses and property owners in older commercial areas upgrade and improve their building’s exterior appearance. The program requires a 50/50 match and reimburses approved applicants up to $5,000.

Eligible improvements include:

  • The removal of false fronts (such as aluminum panels)
  • Repair or replacement of windows, doors, and cornices
  • Repair or replacement of façade materials
  • New, more appropriate signage
  • New awnings
  • Exterior painting (when part of a larger rehab effort)

For more information about applying for this program and current funding availability, contact: Beth Nooe at Beth.Nooe@raleighnc.gov and visit the grant’s website.


Financing Options

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: The Small Business Administration offers loans targeted towards lenders who have trouble securing loans from traditional banks. Basic 7(a) Loans are the most basic loans and useful for starting a new business. Borrowers apply for these loans through participating lenders. SBA 504 loans are useful for purchasing real estate or fixed assets. These loans provide low down payments, fixed interest rates, long term financing and below market interest rates.

For a list of SBA lenders in North Carolina, please visit SBA Lenders Serving North Carolina Small Businesses


Some local business lenders who provide small loans include:

Self Help Credit Union: Based in Durham, Self Help makes loans to small businesses throughout the U.S. with a community-oriented approach. See their small business loan page for more information

The Support Center: Based in Raleigh, this statewide nonprofit and Community Development Financial Institution provides small business loans and financial training to start-ups and existing businesses. Loans range from $5,000-$250,000. See their website for more information or contact Donald Harrington at Dharrington@thesupportcenter-nc.org 


Permits and Licensing

DRA can help guide new businesses through the permitting and licensing processes that come with opening a new business in downtown Raleigh. Contact Bill King at billking@downtownraleigh.org or 919 821-6980 for help.

  • Business licenses:  As of July 1, 2015, the City of Raleigh no longer requires a Business License to operate a business within city limits pursuant to recent state legislation.
  • Tax number: Please visit http://www.blnc.gov/ for more information on applying for a tax ID number in North Carolina and visit http://www.irs.gov/ for a SS-4 form to apply for a federal tax ID number.
  • Tax Accounts: Contact city and county revenue department to establish tax accounts: Call 919 996-3200 to ask about procedures for registering a business. Also contact Wake County Revenue Department for information on tax accounts.
  • Register business name: A Certificate of Assumed Name for sole proprietorships and partnerships must be filed with the Register of Deeds in the county or counties in which businesses plan to operate. Corporations must register their business names with the North Carolina Secretary of State Corporations Division. Also register your business with Wake County here.
  • Incorporate a business: You can incorporate your own business by filing a one-page form called the Articles of Incorporation with the Corporations Division in the Department of the Secretary of State. There is a $125.00 filing fee associated with filing this form. An attorney is also recommended to ensure all additional steps are followed for completing a corporation beyond the Articles of Incorporation form, of which there are several additional steps.
  • Zoning restrictions: Go to the City’s zoning mapping website and enter the address for your business. This map will provide the future and current zoning along with links to the table with allowed uses. Please contact Bill King at billking@downtownraleigh.org with any questions about interpreting this table.   
  • Other State and local permits: Review this list of local and state permits to ensure your fully permitted to operate in Wake County and Raleigh


Business Planning and Assistance

One of the most important parts of opening a business is developing a business plan. DRA can help point you to several business planning resources and provide help personally through our staff and also through the mentoring of existing retailers and business owners.

County and State resources:

  • Wake County Business Resources: for a general overview http://www.wakegov.com/businesses/startingabusiness/Pages/businessplans.aspx
  • Wake County Public Library: Start and Run a Business Guide (http://guides.wakegov.com/business)
  • Business Link North Carolina: Start a new business (http://blnc.gov/start-your-business)
  • Small Business Center (SBC) at Wake Tech Community College: A state funded organization which is part of the Small Business Center Network of North Carolina. The SBC provides small business owners with information they need for starting or expanding their small business and offers, confidential, one-on-one counseling with the Small Business Center Director. For more information call 919-335-1001 or visit smallbusinesscenter.waketech.edu
  • SCORE: Offers free business counseling resources. For more information, call 919-856-4739 from Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–noon, or visit http://raleigh.score.org/
  • NC Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC): The SBTDC is the business and technology extension service of the University of North Carolina, which oversees the 16 constituent institutions of the University system. The SBTDC is administered by North Carolina State and operated in partnership with US Small Business Administration. For more information, please contact 919-715-7272 or 800-258-0862 (in NC only), email info@sbtdc.org, or visit www.sbtdc.org


Basic elements of a Business Plan

The business plan helps ensure a rigorous amount of analysis, vetting, and consideration has gone into the planning of a new venture. As such, please submit a plan with the elements below, as well as any additional information the applicant would like to provide. In particular, a careful and detailed consideration of the financial costs/revenue projections is essential and should be included.

  1. Executive Summary
    1. History and description of the business
    2. Reason/purpose for new venture
    3. Broad goals for new business, particularly as related to the downtown market or community
  2. Product/service
    1. Description of the products or services being sold
    2. Future potential of these products/services
  3. Market Research and analysis:
    1. Target market area with demographics for area and analysis of how this business fits into those demographic conditions or trends
    2. Using above, analysis of customer base and potential for future customers
    3. Analysis of any competition with location and size of competitors noted
    4. Competitive advantage for this business in selling these products/services
  4. Expectations for business growth
    1. Estimate of customers per day/week (provide source/context for estimate)
    2. Estimate of sales and growth
    3. Justification for projections
  5. Management and Personnel
    1. Estimated personnel needs, staffing requirements
    2. Breakdown of number of employees, skill levels, hours, wages
    3. Resume of any personnel already involved in management/ownership
    4. Hiring policies and any training to be provided
  6. Critical risks and threats to business:
    1. Any unfavorable trends in the industry
    2. Unfavorable trends in target market or community, includes competition
    3. How will address possible issues such as low sales in early months
  7. Advertising
    1. Overall strategy for advertising and promotion
    2. Specifics on types of promotion that may be used
  8. Design/development/location
    1. Location and size of space
    2. Age and condition of space
    3. Needs/tasks for up-fitting the space
    4. Estimated costs for up-fit
  9. Financial Plan
    1. Profit and loss forecasts for 3 years with the first year broken out on a monthly basis
    2. Cash flow projections for 3 years
    3. Balance sheet for 6 months, end of first year and end of third year
    4. Sales and revenue projections (provide source/context for where derived estimates of sales)
    5. Any other sources of revenue with evidence/examples to support expectation of that revenue
    6. Breakdown of costs for:
      1. Up-fit
      2. Supplies
      3. Rent
      4. Permitting
      5. Labor (include training and estimated salaries for all employees)
      6. Products/services to be sold (provide source/context for where derived estimates of costs of products)
      7. Advertising and promotion
      8. Legal advice and tax preparation
      9. Loan repayment/interest