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IKEA isn’t the only change planned for Cary Towne Center

IKEA is not coming to Cary after all

IKEA is no longer planning to build its first Triangle store at Cary Towne Center off Interstate 40. It would have been the second North Carolina store, after one opened in Charlotte in 2009.
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IKEA is no longer planning to build its first Triangle store at Cary Towne Center off Interstate 40. It would have been the second North Carolina store, after one opened in Charlotte in 2009.

Now that Sweden-based furniture retailer IKEA has committed to opening its second North Carolina store at Cary Towne Center, CBL & Associates Properties, the mall’s owner, will use that spark to kick off redevelopment of the entire site.

In the coming years, CBL hopes Cary Towne Center will become a “dynamic mixed-use destination” with retail, restaurants, entertainment, apartments, grocery, office and green space, the company said Monday, announcing the second phase of a multi-phase redevelopment project.

CBL began redevelopment efforts earlier this year when it submitted a request to the town to rezone the eastern part of the property, where IKEA announced last week it would locate if the Cary Town Council approves the rezoning.

CBL would tear down the vacant Macy’s and Sears buildings to make way for IKEA. Phase two would bring change to the rest of the site, the mall said.

“Last week’s announcement by IKEA of its proposal to build a store adjacent to Cary Towne Center provides a keystone attraction for the project and a catalyst for its redevelopment,” the mall said in a statement.

Transforming the mall meshes with the Cary Town 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.

Councilman Don Frantz said he would like to see Cary Towne Center one day look similar to North Hills in Raleigh. He described his vision for the development as a vibrant and walkable destination with retail, residential and office space along with an IKEA, where “people want to come and stay and shop and live and work.”

“I’m very excited about it,” Frantz said. “It’s something that we’ve been trying to encourage for years, and to see it actually starting to move forward is awesome.”

Councilwoman Lori Bush said she would like to see a mix of uses not just horizontally but also vertically, meaning offices and apartments over stores and restaurants.

“A lot of millennials and downsizers want to be able to walk to dinner and shop and work, and I do, too,” she said. “The idea of that combination is really appealing.”

CARY TOWNE CENTER
Cary Towne Center mall in Cary on May 16, 2017. The Swedish furniture retailer announced Thursday that it plans to open an IKEA store in Cary on the current site of the Cary Towne Center. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

CBL has hired Dwell Design Studio, a mixed-use planner based in Georgia, to design the project. Dwell Design was part of the team that designed Avalon, an 86-acre development in Alpharetta, Ga., that combines stores, restaurants, apartments, offices, a theater and a hotel on a grid of sidewalks and streets.

“It’s an amazing project,” Frantz said of Avalon. “Seeing that CBL went out and got that architect tells me that they are serious about the redevelopment of the Cary Towne Center mall site. If you want to build the best, you go out and get the best.”

CBL has not announced any new tenants or a timeline for the redevelopment of the mall. CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating said the schedule of the redevelopment will depend on the tenants.

“We are focused on the rezoning process, which is the first step needed to move forward with the redevelopment of the property,” Keating said. “This will lead to the next generation of the Cary Towne Center.”

Monday’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 anchors JC Penney, Belk and Dillard’s have remained.

The town has not set a date for a public hearing on the rezoning for IKEA. CBL plans to submit a rezoning request for phase two later this summer, Keating said.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon

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