A $51 million joint investment from a developer and the Town of Cary could completely transform one of the principal blocks in downtown if a plan to build retail and office space, apartments and downtown Cary’s third parking deck comes to fruition.
Northwoods Associates LLC wants to build a 55,000- to 75,000-square-foot retail and office building on the southeast corner of West Chatham Street and Harrison Avenue. An access road would run between the building and Elizabeth’s Home and Garden Shop leading to a 188-unit apartment building and a 466-space parking deck. NorthView Partners LLC would develop the apartments.
“This project, at least to my knowledge, has been in the works 10 years, maybe a little bit longer,” said Ted Boyd, the town’s downtown development manager, Tuesday when he presented the project at a Cary Town Council work session. Boyd showed the council preliminary plans for the project to demonstrate layout and scale, but a building design has yet to be completed.
The project would require a $5 million commitment from the town for construction of the parking deck, stormwater facilities to serve the entire site, surface parking and access roads. The Town Council unanimously approved paying these costs from available fund balance, which is now $33 million.
But the $46 million private investment would require moving the historic Ivey-Ellington House, which hosts the Cary Downtown Farmers Market, to back up to Ashworth Village and face the new access road.
“This is the opportunity in downtown that I think we have all been waiting for,” councilman Don Frantz said. “$46 million, four stories, 200 units, nearly 500 parking spaces. Getting all that and ultimately preserving the house by moving it 100 or 50 feet, or whatever the number is, I just see that as a win-win.”
Council members voted 6-1 to direct staff to prepare the downtown development proposal to be considered at a future public hearing. Councilman Ed Yerha voted against it and said he’s opposed to moving the historic house.
To proceed, the project will require approvals from First Baptist Church, at the corner of Park and South Academy streets, and the town. Both entities own pieces of land at the site. A public hearing will be required at a later date.
A significant investment
While many of the council members have known about this project for years and said they’re excited about the possibility of such a significant investment in Cary’s downtown, some still have concerns about how the project will look from two of downtown Cary’s major streets – Academy and West Chatham.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said they don’t like that the parking deck could be seen from South Academy Street. Robinson also said she doesn’t look of surface parking from Academy.
“Your Academy Street view is very important to me,” Weinbrecht said. “The first impression I got when I saw this is, ‘Wow. This is our historic street, and now I’m going to be looking at a parking deck.’ ”
But the movement of the Ivey-Ellington House generated the most council comments, particularly from Yerha. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Town staff would need to work with the State Historic Preservation Office to try to maintain that status if the building is moved.
“It’s not just another old house,” Yerha said. “It’s the best example of Gothic Revival architecture in the area. It’s one of the best examples of Gothic Revival residential architecture ... perhaps in the country. It’s a very special house, besides it being one of the most visible historic sites that we have in Cary.”
He said the context or location of the house is an important part of its history, not just the architecture.
“We are dealing with a developer who, in my opinion is one of the most conscientious developers,” Yerha said. “We have everything working in the right direction but I have a feeling that moving this house is a real step back in the strides we have been making all along.”
Councilman Jack Smith disagreed and supported the suggested placement of the historic home.
“This is just too critical and too important,” he said. “We have done all the deep planting over the last couple of years to get into the position to entertain a development such as this. Using the military term, sometimes there is collateral damage.”
Other council members, including Lori Bush, said they would consider moving the house but that the suggested placement may not be the best option. A suggestion to move the house to Academy Street was made.
“I don’t like the way it looks at all,” Bush said. “I think we lose the whole value of the Ivey-Ellington House.”
This would not be the first time a historic house was moved in downtown. Recently, Mayton Inn owners Colin and Deanna Crossman moved the Mayton House, the home of former Mayor Waverly Mayton, from South Academy Street to East Park Street. The house will be behind the inn and will serve as their residence.
The parking deck, which could be accessed from Chatham Street, Academy Street and Harrison Avenue, will include 222 public spaces after Northview Partners buys 244 spaces on the deck’s top level for tenants.
Northwoods Associates will be able to lease up to 135 of the 222 public parking spaces to tenants in its office building during regular business hours. The public parking spaces also will be available for use by the First Baptist Church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.
This will be downtown Cary’s third parking deck. The only other parking deck is near Town Hall Campus at 121 Wilkinson Ave.
This project isn’t the only investment Northwoods Associates will have downtown. The company also is developing Midtown Square on East Chatham Street, which includes renovating Midtown Shopping Center and the construction of a 25,000-square-foot office/retail building.
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.
Bond Brothers Beer Company opened at this site in March.
Renovations to the Midtown Square Shopping Center are expected to be completed this spring with the office/retail space next door to be completed by the fall. Current shopping center tenants – Brentwood Carpets, Capital Vacuum Floor-Care World and Just Tires – will remain open.
A restaurant is planned for the spot that housed Dorry’s Downtown Deli, which closed in the summer of 2014.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon