Downtown Cary: Plans for 2012

Story by Lindsey Chester, photos by Brooke Meyer.

Cary, NC  – It was another packed house at the Heart of Cary Association‘s (HoCA) first meeting in the new year. The guest speaker was Cary’s Town Manager Ben Shivar and the crowd was eager to hear what he had to say about plans for DownTown Cary in 2012.

Standing Room Only

Apparently, many Cary residents and business owners wanted to hear what Ben had to say, because the room was standing room only when HoCA President Doc Thorne called the meeting to order at 8:00.

Ben Shiver titled his presentation “Making It Happen- Heart of Cary.” The main focus was an update of town accomplishments in 2011 and a look ahead through 2012 for the core area downtown.

Accomplishments of 2011

Ben pulled up a slide that listed nine main accomplishments that happened in 2011. These include the very important hiring of a full-time Downtown Manager, Ed Gawf. Opening the Cary Arts Center was another major accomplishment, although begun years ago. This building has already become a major hub downtown and attendance has exceeded expectations. Lyman Collins, Cary’s Cultural Arts Manager, chimed in that the center is booked for all of 2012.

Other items Ben highlighted were the recent historic buildings purchased: The Jones House and the Theater and other Downtown parcels. The town also continues to purchase parcels around what is being called the “Opportunity Site”, consisting of roughly 11-13 acres across from the Arts Center.  Ben was quick to point out that no plans are finalized for what this site will become, but they are entertaining many ideas including a park, a new library as well as shops.

Lastly, Ben previewed illustrations of the new Downtown Cary way-finding banners which have started to be installed. Correction: the banners read “Cary Downtown”.

Plans For 2012

Ben maintained that sticking to a budget is a priority as capital funds are tight. That said, there are priorities for what dollars are available.

A slide was shown illustrating the study that is being conducted for a bridge over the railroad tracks on N. Harrison Ave  as an alternate to the current Walker Street plans. Much needed public parking is being created by the town in the area around the theater. As part of the “Downtown Incentives Program” the town is working with Fidelity Bank to open up their plaza to be more inviting. Across the street, the Town is partnering with Kitchen & Bath Galleries for some inviting street scape.

The Chatham Street area plans include new sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and at least one of two planned roundabouts will begin this year. It is hoped the new theater will open by Christmas.

Nothing happens overnight and development and interest in our downtown area has been a long time coming. Ben remarked that all this planning will make downtown a “thirty year overnight success”.

Heart of Cary Association meets monthly on the first Thursday of each month at 8am in the Cary Chamber of Commerce in Downtown Cary. Meetings are open, but membership is highly encouraged. After all, membership has its privileges!

8 replies
  1. Brooke Meyer
    Brooke Meyer says:

    Lots of concern in today’s Cary News article about a proposed neon marquee for the under renovation Cary Theater. I accepted their invitation for comment and e-Mailed the following suggestion:

    The Town of Cary should engage an Artist to design the Marquee as a permanent art installation, approved by the Cary Cultural Arts Committee or Cary Visual Arts. Anyone wishing to do something similar could follow the same path. I photographed the current lighted neon installation at the Cary Academy Fine Arts Building “I Belong Here” by Tavares Strachan. It’s definitely art. Personally, I think the restored Art Deco Theater facades like the renovated Riveria Theatre on King Street in Charleston SC look like lighted sculpture.

    • Lindsey Chester
      Lindsey Chester says:

      Brooke- I am a member of the Parks & Rec Board, and Lyman Collins gave an update at that meeting stating that yes, indeed, an artist has been engaged to create a neon sign that will reflect the buildings historic context, but be very much of the 21st century
      -as to other comments- the reason the sign has had controversy is because int he Town’s OWN sign ordinance Neon is restricted to the equivalent of an “Open” sign of about 2’x 3′, so they need to revise their own ordinance governing what can pass under their strict appearance codes.
      The sign will help create excitement and a sense of place downtown. I am all for it.
      One more thing that the town has planned for sooner ratehr than later are up lights and twinkle lights int eh trees lining Academy street. This will also create some inexpensive street drama at night for people walking and driving through downtown.
      It all goes to creating a sense of PLACE which is very much needed in our downtown.

    • Ron Snyder
      Ron Snyder says:

      Agree, How about focusing on core infrastructure and family friendly events/environs instead of another idiot sign. Reminds me of the idiot mirror on Capital Blvd north of Downwtown Raleigh.

      May I have an opt-out, or better yet, an mandatory opt-in before you waste my taxes?

      • Brooke Meyer
        Brooke Meyer says:

        Restoring the original Cary movie theater from a shabby auto parts store in the heart of downtown is about as family friendly as it gets. It makes Cary more attractive, it makes people want to live here, it’s very good for home values. The article in the Sunday Cary News missed the point entirely by focusing on a zoning minutiae instead of substance. Perhaps I’m too old and nostalgic for the magic of the theaters of my childhood. After military service, I attended the College of Charleston and saw the transition of downtown Charleston, SC from empty and seedy to wonderful. It was and is very good for the community and very good for business. On some scale, Cary has the same opportunity. Whatever the new marquee is for the new theater, I’m sure it will be attractive.

  2. Laurie Miller
    Laurie Miller says:

    Did Ben Shivar’s talk mirror Ed Gawf’s talk at the Cary Arts Center? Gawf’s vision is different than the downtown plan formulated from much public input. Is the council and town staff behind Gawf’s new plan? How did he come up with it? Any public input? Maybe Cary Citizen could do a story on this.

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