The town plans to send Academy Street out in style.
Construction crews will soon begin work to reshape the decades-old road that runs through downtown Cary. Town leaders plan to spend about $6 million to widen the sidewalks and install new benches, trees and public art on South Academy.
The year-long transformation is expected to begin in early June.
But to mark the start of construction and pay tribute to one of Cary’s most iconic thoroughfares, the town plans to hold a “Celebrate the Street” party Thursday, May 28 at 5:30 p.m.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Town Council members will lead a procession down South Academy Street from Chatham Street to Dry Avenue before ceremonially breaking up the old asphalt in an unconventional way, said Ted Boyd, Cary’s downtown manager.
The event will feature ping-pong tables, three food trucks and five bands, he said. South Academy Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Dry Avenue to Chatham Street for about two hours.
“We didn’t want to just turn some dirt with our shovels,” said Boyd, who wouldn’t reveal additional details.
At most groundbreaking events, Town Council members offer public comments before putting on hardhats and sticking gold-painted shovels into some loose dirt.
Thursday’s celebration will be more meaningful, Boyd said. Academy Street is one of the oldest parts of Cary, one where many people have memories, Boyd said.
Cary leaders see south Academy Street as a gateway to everything downtown Cary has to offer – new and old.
The Cary Arts Center, the library, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church and Ashworth Drugs have been there for decades. But in recent years, Cary leaders have invested millions of dollars into several projects in hopes of boosting the downtown economy.
The town awarded a $6.01 million contract to Raleigh-based J.M. Thompson Company to complete the project. The town has budgeted $8 million for the project, with some of the funds coming from the 2012 bond referendum.
During construction, South Academy Street will become a one-way street, with the east side – the side with the post office – closed first. Construction crews also plan to work on sewer lines at night to lessen the effects on Academy Street houses and businesses.
The town had hoped for construction on a downtown park to coincide with road construction.
Cary expects to spend $5.2 million on a 7-acre park on the eastern corner of Dry Avenue and Academy Street. Construction on the park – which will include a fountain, concert space and gardens – is expected to begin sometime later this year after the town approves a bid for construction.
In a second round of soliciting bids, the town received bids that were considerably over budget. The Cary Town Council rejected the bid offers at its May 5 meeting and instructed town staff to re-bid the project after determining why construction cost estimates were inaccurate and evaluating how the town can save money without damaging the integrity of the park plans. About $3.8 million is earmarked for construction while $1.4 million is designated design and other auxiliary expenses.
Other projects have either been completed or are in progress.
On Chatham Street, the town spent $6 million to open The Cary theater and office space last year. It spent $225,000 to help renovate an office space next door to the theater where Pharmacy Bottle and Beverage opened a bar and bottle shop earlier this year.
On Academy, the town spent about $255,000 to renovate the historic Jones House on the western corner of Dry and Academy. The house is now home to Belle, a farm-to-table restaurant.
It’s backing a $1.4 million loan for the construction of a boutique hotel known as The Mayton Inn at the corner of Academy and Park Street. The hotel is expected to open this fall.
And the town plans to move the library on Academy to the corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Walnut Street in the next few years.
Celebrate the Street: Academy Street Groundbreaking
What: Cary wants to pay tribute to Academy Street and mark the start of road construction.
When: Thursday, May 28, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: South Academy Street, from Chatham Street to Dry Avenue
Plus: Food trucks Arepa Culture, Chick Wagon and Parlez-Vous Crepe; musical acts Bailey Spiritual Sounds Shout Band, Bulltown Strutters, Moore Brothers Band, Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble and the Cary Town Band.
Share your stories and photos
Do you have photos of Academy Street from the past? Do you have memories of walking to school along the street, or visiting downtown by way of Academy? Send your memories and photos along with your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Academy Street” in the subject line.