The Cary Town Council ended a long-running debate Tuesday – one of balancing expenses with the need for more downtown parking – by approving a $9.35 million joint parking project with Wake County.
The four-level, 350-space parking deck is one of several investments that will transform downtown Cary by the fall of 2018, particularly near the corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Walnut Street.
On Tuesday, the council also approved, in a 4-2 vote, the layout for the site of a new Wake County regional library that will be next to the new Downtown Park and the new parking deck. Council members Lori Bush and Jennifer Robinson voted in opposition.
The county is providing most of the $7 million for the library while Cary is providing the land. The parking deck project would cost the town up to $8.35 million.
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The town and the county have a joint plan to replace the 11,000-square-foot library on South Academy Street with a larger one on 3 acres at the corner of Walnut and Kildaire Farm.
The library will be 22,000 to 25,000 square feet and likely will be two floors. As a regional library, it would offer additional programming, a large multipurpose room and increased volume of books.
The county plans to begin construction in the spring of 2017 and open the library during the fall of 2018.
But the town will be responsible for most of the costs associated with the parking deck, which is estimated to be $8.15 million plus an additional $1.2 million for related site work. Wake County will contribute $1 million to help pay this cost.
The council approved the layout and parking deck after much debate about which buildings should have a view of the park.
The vote capped a discussion that began at an August work session when council members discussed other parking options, such as surface parking or a phased approach, where short-term surface parking is used until a parking deck can be constructed in the future.
But several council members said that phased approach would be too disruptive to library functions to build the deck later.
Based on the approved layout of the site, the parking deck would be placed closest to the park to the north with the library to the west facing Dry Avenue. Both structures would be separated by an outdoor plaza area.
The plans also show where two future buildings could be constructed to the south and east of the parking deck. These buildings would likely be used as residential or office space.
But Bush and Robinson did not support the parking deck overlooking the park.
“Maybe we are missing an opportunity because it is such an amazing view,” Bush said. “I think people would pay a premium for a condo on the park.”
Robinson suggested partnering with a private developer to construct the parking deck wrapped by other uses so that residents or businesses using the space could enjoy the view.
But town and county staff cited space and time restraints. The staff members said the design of both the library and parking deck must begin in January.
“Putting a parking deck with excellent park views is a huge mistake,” Robinson said. “We invested a tremendous amount of money on this site. We ought to be pressing for something that is superior rather than settling because of constraints. There’s got to be a way for us to do something that is better than average, and I just think we need to push a little bit and figure it out.”
Councilman Don Frantz said he supports the layout. Even though the parking deck would be next to the park, he said, the library would have a view of the park as well.
“The library gets to take advantage of the park setting and the views,” he said. “I think if we are trying to do something spectacular and remarkable here, we can do that more with public space and public use and not so much private.”
Interim Town Manager Mike Bajorek said the only other option is for the town to develop the deck in conjunction with a private developer. But in the meantime, the county would use the $1 million parking contribution to build a temporary surface parking lot while the town pursues a private-public partnership.
“If we are willing to throw away a million dollars on parking, then we have time,” Frantz said.
“I’m also very worried about time,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “The time is very real and the money goes away if we don’t meet the time deadlines, and that’s a very close reality from what I’m hearing.”
Initially, the staff had recommended a $7.7 million parking deck. That cost would have included a mid-range priced facade.
Instead, the council approved a more expensive facade with more brick and precast concrete detailing for up to $450,000 more.
“It doesn’t look like a parking deck at all,” said Mark Forestieri, Wake County director of facilities, design and construction.
Downtown Park construction
Downtown Park, which will be on town-owned land bound by South Academy Street, East Park, Walker, Walnut and Kildaire Farm roads, will be located just north of the library site.
The town has set aside $5.6 million for the design and construction of phase one. Construction began in October and is expected to be completed by fall 2016.
It will include a town square space near the corner of South Academy and Dry Avenue that will feature a central fountain, outdoor performance space, open lawn area, side garden areas and public art.
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon