Cary News

Midtown Square project ushers in new era for downtown Cary

Northwoods Associates demolished the former building of The Flower Cupboard at 215 E. Chatham St., to make way for a 25,000-square-foot office building on the site.
Northwoods Associates demolished the former building of The Flower Cupboard at 215 E. Chatham St., to make way for a 25,000-square-foot office building on the site. aspecht@newsobserver.com

Cary business owner John Van Deinse watched as the building that housed his store, The Flower Cupboard, for nearly 15 years was demolished in October into nothing more than a pile of debris.

“It was bittersweet actually watching it,” he said. “It was my home of sorts for 14-plus years.”

But Van Deinse knew the demolition of the East Chatham Street structure that held so many memories signaled a new era for him and for downtown Cary. By fall of next year, the site at 215 E. Chatham St., will be home to a 25,000-square-foot, three-story brick office and retail space.

“I think that the Midtown (Square) project – I think it may be the turning point for what downtown is trying to be,” he said.

At the site, Northwoods Associates LP plans to build the new office/retail space and renovate Midtown Shopping Center, a longstanding retail center next door, that will be anchored by the brewery, Bond Brothers Beer Company. The new space will be called Midtown Square.

The entire project previously was estimated to cost about $5 million but it may be higher, said Jordan Gussenhoven, owner of Chatham Street Commercial, which is half of the Northwoods Associates partnership developing the project. George H. Jordan III Development Co., owned by Gussenhoven’s uncle, George Jordan, is the other partner.

Site work at the former flower shop location is underway, Gussenhoven said. Construction of the office/retail space at the former flower shop location is expected to be completed by fall 2016.

At the Midtown Shopping Center next door, Gussenhoven said, the brewery is in the later stages of construction, and renovations on the rest of the building will begin in the next few weeks. All renovations should be completed in the spring.

The Bond Brothers Beer Company space will include a 4,600-square-foot brewing area; a 2,300-square-foot tap room; and 3,000 square feet of outdoor space for a beer garden.

Current shopping center tenants – Brentwood Carpets, Capital Vacuum Floor-Care World and Just Tires – will not be displaced by the renovations, Gussenhoven said.

A fourth tenant, Dorry’s Downtown Deli, closed in the summer of 2014. Gussenhoven said he hopes to make an announcement soon on a new restaurant for the vacant space.

Leasing the space

Two office tenants have signed leases for space in the not-yet-constructed office and retail building, including The Design Response, an urban and land planning design firm, which is now across the street at 214 E. Chatham St. The Design Response created the concept plan for the Midtown Square project.

“We picked the northwest corner on the ground floor,” said Jack Smyre, The Design Response principal and founder. “That gives us northern light into a majority of our windows, and as designers, we like that.”

Smyre said the company likely will move into the new space when the building is completed in the fall.

“I strongly feel like the whole Midtown Square project, including this building, will just completely anchor the East Chatham side of town and will be a really good visual landmark,” he said.

Smyre added that the space is needed downtown, particularly to attract larger tenants.

“Not only do we not have any Class A space in the downtown, particularly for a large tenant ... there is literally, to my knowledge, no place they could go,” he said.

In the meantime, Gussenhoven said he is looking for additional office and retail tenants that may be interested in filling the additional vacancies.

New location

About four miles away, The Flower Cupboard is settled into its new home after Northwoods Associates bought its East Chatham Street building for $560,000 last fall.

The Flower Cupboard moved in August to its new location at 4216 NW Cary Parkway near La Farm Bakery, Van Deinse said, to be closer to what he describes as the center of Cary.

“As Cary grows toward the Chatham County line, we ... felt logistically that we want to be (in) more what we thought was the middle of Cary.” he said.

Since the move, Van Deinse said he has received positive feedback from customers who say the shop is now “in their neighborhood.” At least that is the case for the people who know the longtime downtown Cary business has relocated, he said.

“It is just hard, no matter what, to educate everybody that we’ve moved to another location,” he said. “They wonder if we’ve gone permanently away.”

But Van Deinse said he is looking forward to this new phase of the business and even has added more product lines, including silk flowers.

“I’m excited about what the future is going to bring us,” he said.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon

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