Cary News

Cary Towne Center talking redevelopment after TopGolf withdraws plans

TopGolf’s decision not to open its first North Carolina location at Cary Towne Center has sparked questions about the future of the mall.

The Texas-based company said Monday that it no longer will pursue opening its elaborate entertainment and restaurant complex in the mall spot formerly occupied by Sears, a longtime tenant of the mall that closed earlier this year.

Mall owners CBL & Associates Properties Inc., Cary leaders and other proponents had hoped TopGolf would help in efforts to revitalize the mall after the company first announced the project eight months ago.

Stacey Keating, CBL & Associates’ corporate marketing specialist, said in an email Wednesday that the company is “evaluating a number of different redevelopment scenarios.”

“It is too early to announce any plans, but we believe in the community and the property,” she said. “We look at the redevelopment of Cary Towne Center as a long-term opportunity.”

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht added Monday about potential mall redevelopment plans, “If they do that, it could be anything from retail to office space to residential or all of the above, and I think that’s what they’re planning is a mix of uses.”

Cary Town Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said Tuesday that she would like to see the mall redevelop in a manner similar to North Hills with amenities such as Class A office space, hotels and retail.

“My hope for that mall is that it revitalizes in a dynamic and attractive way that will inspire people to want to live and work in the vicinity,” she said.

Resident concerns

Earlier in the week, Adrienne Chance, TopGolf’s director of corporate communications, said TopGolf changed its mind following concerns from neighboring residents about noise and lighting.

“As we were testing during due diligence, we became concerned about our ability to sufficiently mitigate the lighting and noise issues for the local neighborhood,” Chance said in an email. “The last thing we want is to be a nuisance to the people living close to one of our locations.”

The decision came after a public hearing in front of the Town Council as well as a unanimous decision by Cary’s planning and zoning board in May to recommend that the council approve the mall’s request to allow 60-foot buildings on the northeastern part of the property.

Now, town rules limit mall buildings to two stories, but CBL & Associates sought to amend the rule, which would have allowed TopGolf to build one of its three-story complexes.

To make way for the complex, the Sears building likely would have been demolished, and the property would have needed to be rezoned to build TopGolf’s standard three-story, 65,000-square-foot facility that includes a driving range, restaurant, bar and lounge.

Officials found that a 60-foot building would be 6 feet taller than the 54-foot-tall Dillard’s department store, which is Cary Towne Center’s tallest building.

Almost 20 people spoke in May at the planning and zoning board meeting, with residents divided about the development. Opponents said the view of the building through their backyard could hurt their property values. They had filed a protest petition against the request.

Robinson said in light of resident concerns, she was not surprised that TopGolf decided to change course. In order to move forward at the mall, TopGolf would have had to prove it wouldn’t negatively affect neighboring properties.

“They may have just decided the bar was just too high there,” Robinson said. “It’s not unusual for us to hear that a particular business is considering coming to Cary, and then upon further investigation, it doesn’t come through.”

Chance said TopGolf is still “highly interested” in the Cary market, she said she’s not able to confirm any new potential locations.

Cary Senior Planner Mary Beerman said Monday that CBL & Associates had not withdrawn the rezoning application for the building height change. She said if mall management decides to move forward with rezoning, it would go before the Cary Town Council for approval about a month later.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon

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