Cary moves up with a downtown plan

April 1, 2013 

There is so a downtown Cary. No, it’s not exactly New York. OK, some would say it’s not Apex. But, by golly, around Academy Street and Harrison and Chatham Avenues, there is a downtown. Somewhere. We think.

Ed Gawf, Cary’s downtown development manager since 2011, is blunt about Cary’s missing hub. “We’re a great series of subdivisions,” he says, “without a downtown.”

His opinion is shared by many loyal Cary residents who love the town’s suburban parks and other amenities, but don’t get downtown, or to whatever they call downtown, much. Town planners now are in the process of changing that with plans to spend millions of dollars. They want to create a downtown with a nice park and revamped roads brimming with new restaurants and nightlife. With that vision, Cary joins a trend in which towns and cities all over the country are focusing on improving their core as a defining center.

Certainly there’s good potential in the place that is no longer a Raleigh bedroom community or a crossroads. SAS and suburbs saw to that. Check the charts measuring Cary’s growth over the last 25 or 30 years and you’ll see the population is around 140,000 and growing. With numbers like that, and with many residents with good incomes looking for entertainment and nice places to eat and play, Cary’s leaders rightly figure, why let them go to Raleigh or Durham or Apex or Morrisville, for that matter?

It’s a good question and it needs an inventive answer. There may be some longtime Cary residents who liked the town the way it was when the population was under 10,000 (and there are lots of people who can remember those days) but those days aren’t coming back, and a good downtown can help a town or city identify itself. And as Raleigh’s revitalization has shown, it also can be fun.

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