Representatives for Cary Towne Center are asking the town to rezone the mall to allow TopGolf to build a three-story entertainment complex on the site recently vacated by Sears.
TopGolf, a Texas-based company, has built 13 elaborate 65,000-square-foot driving range/restaurant complexes across the country. TopGolf officials expressed interest late last year in opening its first North Carolina facility at the Cary mall.
The mall is owned by CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. Jason Barron, a lawyer with Morningstar Law Group who represents the company, said mall management wouldn’t seek to rezone the property if TopGolf wasn’t interested in it.
“CBL is working to help make TopGolf in the Triangle a reality,” Barron said in an email Friday.
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The rezoning request mostly addresses the town’s limits on building heights at the mall. TopGolf facilities are usually three stories tall, but Cary rules currently prohibit buildings greater than two stories in height at the mall.
A public hearing on the rezoning request is scheduled for Thursday’s Cary Town Council meeting, and the council is expected to vote on the request at a meeting later this year.
“But none of the existing zoning conditions will be changing, including the conditions related to setbacks and buffering from the homes along Ivy Lane,” Barron said.
If the council agrees to allow three-story buildings, property management would need to obtain a special-use permit to allow for outdoor recreational use, said Mary Beerman, a senior planner for the town, in order for TopGolf to break ground.
Special-use permits also require council approval. Officials with TopGolf and Cary Towne Center have taken steps to gauge support by holding meetings with residents of neighboring subdivisions.
“We are just exploring whether or not this is a feasible location for TopGolf given the size of our venues,” TopGolf spokeswoman Adrienne Chance wrote in an email.
But if the rezoning is approved, Chance said the company would move “very quickly” to submit a site plan.
TopGolf attempts to appeal to golfers and non-golfers by making an arcade-like experience out of hitting balls on the driving range. Customers can hit microchipped balls at high-tech greens that track where a ball lands. TopGolf’s website describes the setup as an “outdoor dartboard, but for golf.”
Each facility employs about 150 full-time workers and 300 part-time workers, Chance said.
Such a development would change the look and possibly the future of Cary Towne Center, which lost Sears as a longtime anchor store earlier this year.
In documents submitted to the town, mall representatives say the request gives the council a chance to “breathe life into” the area.
“Cary Towne Center has been a struggling center for several years,” the document states. Mall management believes that a rezoning “will be the start of a revitalization of the mall.”
A group of residents, who identify themselves as CaryForward, has created a website and Facebook page to express support for the development and to offer updates on the TopGolf zoning process.
“CaryForward supporters recognize that a strong economy is the foundation for building more and better opportunities for Cary’s citizenry,” the group says on its Facebook page. “We work to ensure that Cary enjoy the best opportunities while maintaining our sense of community.”
Its website said TopGolf would be an economic boost to the area over the next 10 years and would help energize the mall. As of Friday, 39 people have signed an online petition to express support for TopGolf.
Barron said the mall would need to reconfigure the property to make way for TopGolf, but removing the Sears structure allows the complex to fit in the existing facility.
Mall traffic also would be affected during construction, he said, but when it’s complete, a road would still loop around the mall for traffic.
“CBL is proud to own the Cary Towne Center,” Barron said. “We believe Cary Towne Center is a valuable contributor to the local economy and we want to continue to play that role.”