When looking at the town’s eastern gateway, the Cary Town Council has stressed high intensity and high density with a mix of retail, office and residential to create a walkable destination with opportunities to live, work and play.
On Wednesday, July 20, council members spent about two hours discussing the town’s proposed plan for the area to ensure their vision is clear to potential developers who may want to build there in the next 25 years.
“When we talk about rezoning requests and new buildings and new opportunities and new development, we leverage our decisions based on the policies and the ordinances we’ve created,” councilwoman Lori Bush said. “So the more detailed or the more visionary statements we give in the policy should be more guidelines for the developers wanting to develop in this area.”
The Eastern Cary Gateway Special Planning Area covers about 800 acres bordered by Chapel Hill Road to the north, Interstate 40 to the east, Cary Towne Center to the south and Maynard Road on the west. The plan was drafted as part of Imagine Cary, an effort to prepare a new community plan to guide growth through 2040.
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The council envisions having a mixed-use development with a majority of office space and a balance between commercial and residential uses on a 90-acre site north of Cary Towne Boulevard.
To the south, council members see Cary Towne Center being redeveloped with smaller blocks and an emphasis on restaurants and retail to encourage “park once” shopping and dining experiences.
The plan also includes high-density office space, 20 stories high, along I-40 and multi-family housing along Maynard Road.
“We’ve been emphasizing that this is one of the greatest opportunities in the town to be providing development for class A office space,” said Leigh Anne King of Clarion Associates, an Imagine Cary consultant, about the eastern gateway. “Obviously this is a really critical piece looking forward in the future.”
The council decided to expedite the adoption process of this special planning area, separate from the rest of the community plan, in April amid developer interest in the area. Town staff have since tweaked it based on input from prominent stakeholders, like Cary Towne Center and Triangle Aquatic Center.
The town’s eastern gateway drew statewide attention in January when supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets announced it was interested in putting its first North Carolina location on the 90-acre site, where Columbia Development Group hopes to develop an office-drive, mixed-use project.
Because of the town’s Imagine Cary planning efforts, Columbia Development Group representatives said in April that they would soon submit a revised plan, illustrating the office-driven vision, but a plan has not been filed with the town.
But last week, council members discussed how they hoped the site would look one day.
“This is our last, or one of our last opportunities, for an employment center,” Bush said, adding that she would like to see a majority of office space on the site.
Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson also supports having a majority of office space for the site but with scattered, supporting retail uses, rather than one large anchor.
“My presumption is this is going to be scattered,” she said. “It’s going to be dry cleaners and this little shop and that little shop and a bagel shop and that kind of stuff, not one behemoth of a retail building.”
Some, including councilman Jack Smith, hesitated to be as specific.
“I want this to be a stunning entrance into Cary,” Smith said. “I think we are spending too much time being prescriptive rather than putting the bar up there and demanding that they come back with a creative way to fill it.”
Part of the discussion also revolved around extending Trinity Road from the WakeMed Soccer Park to Cary Towne Center to improve connectivity in the area.
But, according to staff, there is no simple solution because of challenges like existing infrastructure, stream buffers and more. They presented two options. One would include a street connection that would limit bicycle and pedestrian accessibility while the other would involve a flyover bridge that would limit development potential in the surrounding area.
Council members leaned toward the first option, hoping to find an alternative method to improve bicycle and pedestrian access, such as a pedestrian bridge, so that people won’t have to cross Cary Towne Boulevard.
Residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the gateway plan, as well as the rest of the community plan, at two open houses from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 28 and Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Herbert C. Young Community Center.
The Eastern Cary Gateway SPA likely will be voted on by the council on Nov. 10 after two additional work sessions.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
What: Imagine Cary Open House
When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 28 and Tuesday, Aug. 2
Where: Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary