Except for some orange plastic fencing left by contractors, the first acre of Cary’s downtown park is open and ready for your next lunch date.
The remaining six or so acres? Their future is a little harder to pin down.
What’s on the ground now, though, is visually striking: The entryway to the park, at the corner of Academy Street and Dry Avenue, is anchored by an imposing fountain that looks like a cereal bowl supported by four columns. The jets of water at its base are lit up with bright colors at night.
Surrounding the fountain are a smattering of benches and café-style tables and chairs. A synthetic-turf bocce green and an outdoor ping-pong table are to the fountain’s left, and a foosball table will be rolled out any day now.
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Behind the fountain is a small, grassy amphitheater, where designers say small concerts or speaking events will be held.
“There will be programmed small concerts and small music events down there,” said Sarah Alexander, a landscape architect with the town of Cary. “But we wanted to have non-organized play for not just kids but for adults as well, so the park will remain active in other times of the day.”
This is the first phase of a master plan for the mostly undeveloped, town-owned block in the heart of Cary’s downtown, which will eventually feature a large, open green and a stormwater basin that will double as a water feature. With the exception of the Mayton Inn and two properties next to it, Cary owns all the land bounded by Academy, East Park, Walnut and Walker streets.
“In order for development to happen on that block, you need something to mitigate your stormwater,” said Ted Boyd, Cary’s downtown development manager. “But we want to do that in a sort of way that it feels like it’s an amenity to the park – not this weird, awkward wetland.”
Boyd said the town has budgeted for the design of a second phase, but Cary leaders haven’t decided yet what it will include.
What’s all but certain is the 2018 opening of a new regional library near the bend in Dry Avenue, accompanied by a town-funded, 350-space parking deck. Boyd said the town is hoping to divest of the old Cary Community Library on the other side of Academy Street and sell the land to private developers.
Cary also hopes to attract private development on the southeast and northeast corners of the block.
“Most likely that will be on the edges,” Boyd said. “It naturally makes sense for the parkland to be in the middle of all that, and it works well from a phasing standpoint. What’s there now doesn’t look like it’s incomplete.”
The completion of a streetscape plan along Academy Street brings an end to about a year and a half of construction along the thoroughfare, which brought detours, noise and dust.
Cary funded the $5.6 million first phase of the park with a $2 million community investment bond and money from the town’s general fund.
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan