As a child, George H. Jordan III sat on the front porch of his grandmother’s East Chatham Street home to watch the Cary High School Band march through the streets of downtown in the fall.
That was in the 1960s. More than 50 years later, Jordan, a local developer, supervises construction of his newest project – an office and retail building – on that same site, which is next to a shopping center that his father built.
The Jordan family has been an integral part of Cary since the town was founded in 1871, initially investing in and later developing within the town’s core.
In the next few years, Jordan, 61, and his nephew, Jordan Gussenhoven, 32, plan to continue their family’s legacy as they undertake an expansive, mixed-use project that is expected to transform one of downtown’s principal blocks.
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Northwoods Associates is seeking to build a retail and office building on the southeast corner of the West Chatham Street and South Harrison Avenue intersection, along with 188 apartments and a parking deck. Northwoods Associates is a partnership between George H. Jordan III Development Co., owned by Jordan, and Chatham Street Commercial, owned by Gussenhoven.
The $51 million public-private partnership still needs to be approved by the Town of Cary and First Baptist Church, but Jordan and Gussenhoven hope to see construction begin in 2017. They already are in the process of transforming Mid-Town Shopping Center on East Chatham Street and are adding a 25,000-square-foot office and retail building.
“I want to see a vibrant core where people are living and working and shopping and going to church,” Jordan said. “I want to see a place where people in Cary want to come downtown. I want to see a vibrant culinary scene where there are really good restaurants like you see in downtown Raleigh.”
Jordan and Gussenhoven have similar visions when it comes to downtown Cary and inspire one another to achieve those plans.
“I think I’m stepping it up because of Jordan (Gussenhoven)’s passion and his ability,” Jordan said.
But with such an ambitious project ahead of them, it is the duo’s love of laughter that keeps things fun. A wide grin breaks out across Jordan’s face before he lets out a hearty laugh after hearing or making any kind of wisecrack.
“We both love to laugh, so we are both wise guys,” he said.
And that laughter is infectious. Working – and laughing – together has brought them even closer.
“He is also a lot of fun, and he has a tremendous sense of humor,” Gussenhoven said. “As an uncle, he has been like a second father and brother rolled into one.”
A family legacy
The large, mixed-use development is proposed on property that has been in the Jordan family for more than a century, ever since Jordan’s great-great-grandfather, Henry B. Jordan, settled there with his wife, Helen, in the early 1870s.
Henry Jordan was a farmer, a merchant and served on the town’s founding council prior to being elected mayor in the early 1900s.
But it was Jordan’s father, George H. Jordan Jr., that kickstarted the family’s development efforts in Cary, particularly in and around the Maynard Loop.
“Jordan (Gussenhoven) and I, our opportunity that we are doing in downtown Cary is a direct result of what my father did,” Jordan said.
George Jordan Jr., also known as Buck, built 400 homes in residential areas around downtown, including in Montclair, Meadowmont, Northwoods and Tanglewood in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. He also developed several commercial buildings along Chatham Street to house retail and office space for a bank, doctors and more.
“When you start building homes for people, well they need a doctor, and they had some of those on Academy Street, but we need a bank and an insurance agency,” Jordan said.
Most of those commercial buildings are still standing today, including the one-story office building at the proposed site of the mixed-use development and Mid-Town Shopping Center down the street.
George Jordan Jr. often worked alongside his brother, C.Y., a civil engineer and surveyor, on the residential projects. He also assembled the land where Cary Towne Center now stands and brought in a development team to build the mall, which was then called Cary Village Mall.
He began work on the Northwoods planned unit development, which allowed for a mix of uses, before he died in 1983, and Jordan took over the project. He also took over Mid-Town Shopping Center on East Chatham Street.
“Cary was changing,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to leave here. It was an exciting place to be.”
Today, Mid-Town Shopping Center, which was built in the 1970s, holds Brentwood Carpets, Capital Vacuum Floor-Care World, Just Tires and Bond Brothers Beer Company. Bond Brothers sits where the home of Jordan’s great-grandfather, James B. Jordan, once stood.
Jordan and Gussenhoven first decided to revitalize Mid-Town Shopping Center when they purchased the land next door – the site of the former home of former Cary Mayor George H. Jordan Sr.
“We want to bring residents downtown but we also want to maintain the business environment along Chatham Street,” Gussenhoven said.
Renovations are underway, and the new office and retail building is expected to be completed by this fall. The new space will be called Mid-Town Square.
“We feel a little responsibility to give a nod to Buck,” Gussenhoven said about keeping Mid-Town in the name.
But the proposed $46 million private investment to add a 55,000- to 75,000-square-foot retail and office building a few blocks away will be Jordan and Gussenhoven’s largest undertaking yet.
“We want more density without a dramatic change in the character of what downtown Cary is,” Gussenhoven said. “I think we also want to celebrate the history of Cary. I want people to come down here and realize their community has got an interesting and colorful history to it.”
The project would require a $5 million commitment from the town for construction of the parking deck, stormwater facilities, surface parking and access roads.
It also would require relocating the historic Ivey-Ellington house, which hosts the Cary Downtown Farmers Market. The Cary Town Council has discussed moving the home to Academy Street or repositioning it on the site.
“It is a balancing act to try to blend the new with the old, and we are sensitive to that,” Jordan said.
The duo has further ideas for future residential and commercial downtown development projects, which are still in their planning stages, to help continue to draw more retail, restaurant and other commercial uses to the area.
“We continue to reinvest in downtown, and we hope to be working on downtown revitalization for a long time to come,” Gussenhoven said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon