After months of rumors, Sweden-based furniture retailer IKEA said Thursday that it is coming to Cary.
IKEA’s first Triangle store will be built on a 15-acre portion of the Cary Towne Center site off Interstate 40, if a development plan and rezoning request are approved by the Cary Town Council. It would be the second North Carolina location for IKEA, after one in Charlotte that opened in 2009. The next closest IKEA is in Woodbridge, Va., south of Washington, D.C.
“We are excited about the opportunity for a potential second North Carolina IKEA store at this location in Cary,” IKEA U.S. president Lars Petersson said in a statement. “A store in the Raleigh area would complement our strong presence established in Charlotte and eventually provide customers in central and eastern North Carolina an IKEA store closer to them.”
IKEA will submit a development plan to the Town of Cary to make the 359,000-square-foot store and two-level parking deck happen. If approved, the store could be open as early as summer 2020, the company said Thursday. A new store also would create more than 500 jobs during construction and 300 jobs when the store opens.
The store is part of a plan by CBL & Associates Properties, the mall’s owner, to redevelop the struggling shopping center. CBL already submitted a rezoning request to the Town of Cary this year to kick off the initial step in a multi-phase redevelopment effort. It begins with the eastern part of the property, which includes the vacant Macy’s and Sears buildings and land toward the Triangle Aquatic Center. The vacant Macy’s and Sears buildings would be demolished to make way for IKEA.
“IKEA would be a significant draw to Cary Towne Center, attracting customers from across central and eastern North Carolina,” CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said in an email. “While plans have not been finalized, we are encouraged by IKEA’s announcement and will continue to work through the town’s approval process.”
A public hearing at an upcoming Town Council meeting will be the next step in the process. It has yet to be scheduled, according to town staff.
Transforming the mall meshes with the council’s plans to create a thriving eastern gateway along Cary Towne Boulevard with retail, residential and office space. The Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans grocery chain has expressed an interest in opening its first North Carolina store on undeveloped property north of the mall.
“We are so excited that IKEA wants to come to Cary, and we will do everything we can to make this happen,” Councilman Don Frantz said.
Asked if there were any concerns about IKEA’s bright blue and yellow colors, Frantz said, “I don’t care what color their building is. Bring it.”
Council members have said that well-done mixed-use development and redevelopment in the area would attract other major retailers and desirable businesses, making it a vibrant and walkable destination.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said after years of talks about development at the property to the north where Wegmans wants to open and about redevelopment at the mall, he is ecstatic that these projects are finally moving forward.
“It will be at least two years,” he said. “But it’s exciting that we can get this going, and hopefully in two years, we’ll see the doors open and the whole area redevelop.”
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, rumors about IKEA coming to the Triangle had been swirling for months among real estate agents, developers and fans of the popular Swedish retailer. IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth has said IKEA has had its eye on the region since the mid-2000s.
“IKEA recognizes the customer base that exists for us in the Raleigh-Durham area and always has acknowledged that, long term, the metro area could support an IKEA store,” Roth has said.
IKEA typically needs a population base of about 2 million people to support a store. The stores typically run between 270,000 and 400,000 square feet. Charlotte’s store, off Interstate 85 in the northeast part of the city, is 356,000 square feet.
Thursday’s announcement comes after years of struggle and several lost tenants at Cary Towne Center. After Sears closed in January 2015, Macy’s followed suit in April 2016 as part of a series of closings across the country. Several other smaller retailers also have closed, while JC Penney, Belk and Dillard’s have remained.
This is not CBL’s first attempt to revitalize the property. Mall officials once hoped to replace the Sears with TopGolf, a golf and entertainment complex. But neighbors’ concerns about noise and lighting prompted TopGolf to announce in 2015 that it would look elsewhere.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon