Cary News

Cary asks for feedback on its design rules for commercial buildings and apartments

Apartment complexes, shopping malls and office spaces built in Cary since 2005 have had a certain look – and it’s by design.

That year, the town set aesthetic standards for developers of commercial and multi-family buildings.

The standards dictate everything from the types of materials developers must use to the number of colors they’re allowed to incorporate in the overall look.

Cary has received national recognition for its standards because they set the bar for quality construction while allowing developers some design flexibility, said Ricky Barker, an associate planning director for the town.

But some Cary council members say there is room for improvement.

As part of a review process that will extend into next summer, the town is holding public meetings to collect feedback on its architectural building design standards.

The first public meetings are Oct. 27 from 3 to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center in downtown Cary.

“One of the things we do very well is, every couple of years, we review things we’ve done to make sure we haven’t had any unintended consequences,” Cary Council member Jack Smith said.

Town staff will use posterboards, hold presentations and take questions in an effort to help explain Cary’s current standards and the changes some leaders have suggested.

Cary’s design rules require:

• Masonry materials to make up at least 75 pecent of commercial buliding facades and at least 35 percent of apartment and townhome facades

• Facades to be divided into architecturally distinct sections that are taller than they are wide.

• Ground-level retail buildings to have windows take up 50 percent of their front facades.

• Building facades to have at least one significant detail that’s repeated in the architecture at least three times.

• A maximum of three proposed primary colors for the buildings, each with a maximum of two secondary accent colors.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson, who initiated the conversation, said the town could stand to be a little stricter.

For example, the town allows businesses to place reflective panes on their facades instead of two-way windows.

“Give us a real window,” she said. “I’m not wild about these fake windows.”

The town also is considering being more flexible with buildings that don’t face major roadways.

For example, the CVS pharmacy at the intersection of Davis Drive and High House Road doesn’t face the intersection, and the view from the road “doesn’t look good,” Robinson said.

“(The business) followed the letter of the law but it didn’t turn out the way many of us thought it should,” she said. “That building, along with several others, made us ask: ‘Are our rules what we want them to be?’ ”

The Town Council plans to review the public’s feedback over the winter and use the input to help write a first draft of proposed revisions to Cary’s architectural design standards.

The public is expected to get its first glimpse of the Cary leaders’ proposed revisions at another public meeting in the spring. Town leaders hope to then write a second draft of proposed revisions that will go before the council in the summer.