Apex residents Karthik Aghoram and his wife, Shweta Lolage, recently purchased an older home near Cary Towne Center with plans to renovate it and move in by the end of the year.
As new Cary homeowners, the couple attended an open house at the Herbert C. Young Community Center on Thursday, July 28, to see what the town has planned for the area over the next 25 years.
“Our main motive to buy the house there was I like to walk to everything,” Lolage said, adding that she hoped to have more stores, particularly at Cary Towne Center, to walk to in the future.
“We’re excited that they have a plan for the eastern gateway,” Aghoram said. “Hopefully, it will sort of revive the area and enhance the neighborhoods around there.”
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For many Cary residents, it was their first chance to see the complete draft of the Cary Community Plan that will one day guide growth in the town through 2040. It was drafted as part of Imagine Cary, an effort by town planners and residents to create the new master plan.
About 130 people attended the first of two sessions with questions and comments about the town’s vision for Cary’s future. A second open house will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the community center.
Cary’s eastern gateway
Many residents who attended the open house flocked around easels holding up the plans for Cary’s downtown and eastern gateway – “two big, visible places kind of ripe for growth and redevelopment,” said Anna Readling, a senior planner with the town.
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.
“Wow,” said Pat Roy about the plan for the area. “This is pretty amazing.”
Roy, who lives near the eastern gateway, said she likes the area’s “walkable, urban focus,” as well as a mix of uses, including office and retail space.
“I could see a lot of people going there,” she said, before mentioning a development in Chatham County. “The development kind of sound like a condensed version of Chatham Park. It’s going to have office space and places to live and places to shop.”
But like many who attended the open house, she was most excited about a possible Wegmans grocery store opening there. Wegmans Food Markets is working toward a lease agreement with developer Columbia Development Group to have its first North Carolina site on the north side of Cary Towne Boulevard.
Others eyed the Eastern Cary Gateway planning area out of concern for the future of the Cary Towne Center, which has lost anchor tenants and smaller retailers. Sears closed in early 2015 and Macy’s closed earlier this year.
“I’m actually glad to see they are actually trying to incorporate Cary Towne Center into all of he plans as opposed to just letting it sit there by itself and maybe die off or something,” Cary resident Lori Bidgood said. “It seems like they are putting some thought into the area and making it more of a destination than it kind of is.”
Downtown and western Cary
Many residents also praised the town’s actions and future plans for downtown, particularly in restoring the Cary Arts Center. Others wanted to ensure that, while progress continued, history was still respected and preserved, such as the historic Ivey-Ellington House on West Chatham Street.
“As one who grew up on Academy Street and Chatham, I want to have as much preserved from the past as possible, especially the quirkiness of that house,” said Pat Sweeney, a member of the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel Board of Directors, a group devoted to preserving and promoting Cary’s history. “I think it distinguishes Cary from a rejuvenated Apex or Fuquay-Varina or Wake Forest.”
While the downtown and eastern gateway areas garnered praise, not everyone was as impressed with the vision for western Cary.
Tim Poole, who lives in Cary’s extraterritorial jurisdiction near Research Triangle Park, said he has long believed that office and institutional uses would be built near his home. But the draft plan shows more neighborhoods that he says will generate even more traffic in an already congested area.
“I’ll be honest, I think they need more office,” he said. “All we have out there are a service station, school and mostly houses.”
Once the town receives feedback, council members will meet to consider revisions to the plan. The adoption process is expected to begin in October, which will include public hearings, and the plan is expected to be adopted in January 2017.
In addition to the open houses, residents can to submit comments about the plan online at www.imaginecary.org/open-house/.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
What: Imagine Cary Open House
When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2
Where: Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary