Community

New parking deck adds a lot to retail in downtown Concord

By Debbie Griffin.  A check with the relatively new director of the Concord Downtown Development Corp., Johnson Bray, reveals a strong economy and the welcome addition of a new 614-spot parking deck.

Bray took the CDDC reins from Diane Young last June and has been attending events and listening to what people want in their downtown.

Bray

“It’s important in this position that you get to know the community,” said Bray.

People tell him they want entertainment options in Concord, for a date night or fun evening out, as well as retail. Besides attracting desired businesses, some of the CDDC director’s job is to educate people about what is already available in Concord.

That includes restaurants, places for a drink and several options for arts, live music, shows and theater productions, Bray said. He doesn’t see a definitive trend or niches downtown, but a balanced mix with a few specialty shops that do a good job and tap new markets.

“It’s one of the things I like about downtown Concord,” Bray said, “it’s not trying to fit in a box and it has great entrepreneurs.”


Space talk

Concord’s overall vacancy rate right now is about 14 percent. That reflects a rise since Bray started that he describes as natural fluctuation.

He cannot disclose details yet but said there is “exciting opportunity with some new entrepreneurs” that should see the vacancy rate drop to nearly nothing.

The median cost per square foot of space is $10-$12, Bray said. The CDDC fields a lot of calls about small office space and inquiries about places on Union Street. Available spaces are listed on the CDDC’s website, but listings are dependent upon owners for updates.

Right now, the site shows six commercial spaces for lease ranging from $250 per month for 180 square feet to $1,200 per month for 1,100 square feet. There are two commercial properties for sale in the area: One at 47 Union Street with 6,088 square feet for $868,000 and another on Cabarrus Avenue West with 2,619 square feet for $279,900.

“We don’t have any direct control over what can or can’t come into downtown,” Bray commented.


Bring, help, keep business

CDDC staff consists of Bray, one other full-time employee and a part-time person. They all operate as a “marketing arm” for businesses, as well as liaisons to the city, county and other local entities.

Downtown Concord offers $17,000 worth of grants each year for such things as signs, façade improvements and beautification. It puts together activities and events to give local businesses exposure and to raise funds for the CDDC. The organization gets some funding from the city and Cabarrus County.

Bray said Spring into Art, happening May 11, is the biggest festival and has a juried art show. New this year will be an area where 40 (non-juried) artisans and crafters will have vendor booths.

Hops and Heat is a popular fall beer and chili festival, and 2018 was the first year for a murder-mystery scavenger hunt that directly marketed downtown businesses.

Asked about competition with a regional mall, Bray said, “We don’t try to compete, we just co-exist and market our uniqueness.”

Concord is “lucky” the county and city see parking as a priority, Bray thinks. He’s been excited to announce the county deck is open, and there’s a city deck, too.

Bray lives downtown and said he drives about once a week. He said everything he needs is there including shoe repair and unique services, fast or fine food and arts or entertainment including a brewery and an arcade bar.

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