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What Does Cary Need to Do To Reach the Next Level as a City..er, Town?


Brendan

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey, you guys thought Raleigh was run by dogma, Cary is 5X Raleigh in hidebound thought.

The remedy to Cary's intellect+design malaise will come only once an upstart neighbor (um, I'm kinda thinking Apex, possibly Holly Springs) starts to do it better. When that beloved tollway finally gets finished (of course, provided that the tolls aren't too high), watch and see how many people then start driving around the $megaburb known as Cary, to places with fresher concepts. Then you'll see the panicked gentry start to push for things to stitch up Frankenstein, not a minute before. (Apex already seems to be grabbing more than its share of the residences of local "celebrities".)

I really couldn't care less what Cary calls itself -- be it "Town of", "Burg of", or even "Hamlet of" would make me fret not. What it boils down to is this. The "Town of Cary" is a "Town" that is run by, and for the nearly exclusive benefit of, realtors and developers. (For that reason alone, it would qualify Cary as a "Town".) Realtors will tell the city mothers to never refer to Cary as a "city", because to all of the emigrant newcomers seeking to buy homes, the realtors will tell them, the word "city" evokes images of gang scrip, and poor people, and all of those undesirable elements of a "city". Your average homebuyer wants "fru fru", not "city", and so it carries on as a marketing ploy by realtors. Is it racial? Why, you betcha! At least partially, whether the intent was to discriminate or not. Minorities are probably more than welcome, provided they sport the "right" kind of clothing, vehicle, and CC&R worshiping attitudes that the other "Town"folk have.

In the end though, the joke is on Cary. At some point, Cary will begin to decay. In the instances of Xroads and CTC, it already has. The developers and realtors that perpetrated the whole "Town of Cary" mythology will not dwell and suffer on it -- they will simply move on to Pittsboro or Johnston County, or wherever. And once the decay starts to spread, Cary will have no choice (without its old developer patrons around to bail it out) than to go to the ever-hated Federal till for redevelopment and renewal money to heal the scars. It will, in a fit of irony, then begin acting like a city.

Regardless of the State's definition of municipalities, and the lack of import therein, the Federal government, via the Census Bureau, does have explicit definitions for municipalities, under which Cary would be firmly classified as a "city" (although I agree with most of you who doubt that there is any redeeming characteristic to Cary that would qualify it as a real urban area). However, on an application for funding, and through the appropriations process (there are many of you on this blog way better able to delineate the process than I) the "Town of Cary" must use its legal name. To someone at the State level, it makes little difference. But at the Federal level, if an appropriations bill comes across a committee chair, say, Congressman Joe Blow from Spokane, gives the request a once over, reads "Town of" on it, and it gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile. He doesn't know, doesn't care, that Cary now has 300,000 people in the 2015 interim Census. It's a "Town", and therefore it's low priority. Of course, I may be wrong, and the Republicans regain all three branches of government, begin to try and starve cities again, and Cary might become a spoiled nephew for the very same reasons. But I kinda doubt that. And you may give congressmen and women the benefit of a doubt, that they are more astute and studious than this, but even if they are energetic enough to do the research, there is simply too much on their plate to digest. Personally, I am of the opinion that lobbyists do most of the legislating in packaged drops to the Rayburn Building anyhow.

Distilled to its essence, Apex, Holly Springs, and Morrisville will turn Cary into a "city", whether Cary likes it or not, despite whatever Cary chooses to call itself. Those of us that have lived in bigger metropoli have seen this played out over and over again. Having said that, I would have to say that, IMHO, nobody gets it right in those parts. Just look at Raleigh and Brier Creek and you see what I mean.

Edited by vitaviatic
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  • 3 years later...

Crappy Towne Center appears to have lost several national retailers in Chico's, Soma and Coldwater Creek (bankruptcy), all oddly in the main entrance facing Walnut Street.  The mall continues to deteriorate.  More and more spots are vacant.  Many new stores are unknown off brands. The interior area within the old part of the mall is walled off for construction.  Not sure what's being done there.  I don't see Dave and Buster's doing much to bring people to the mall.  I always questioned why they would come to Cary in the first place -- aiming at single adults, where Cary is loaded with young families.

 

I don't see any recovery for CTC, with it eventually sliding into a larger South Hills.  It's just so freaking depressing walking in there.

 

I would love to see them "de-mall" like North Hills, with mixed use -- retail, commercial, residential, but I've given up any hope that will ever happen.  

 

Still stunned with Cary's demographics that we can't have something better.  Just too close to Crabtree and Southpoint to have same upscale stores.

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I think that the saving grace for CTC has been that none of the mall's 5 department store anchors have closed. IMO once they start leaving (and you know it will happen eventually even if stores just move to another location) drastic action will have to be taken on the property....until then the mall will likely continue on in it's present fashion...I must admit that I do live in Cary and even though I've lived right down the road from the mall for going on 3 years I've only been inside it once....b/c it's just so bleh.

 

I do like my little corner of Cary within the Maynard loop. It's actually pretty walkable and it's not as cookie cutter as the rest of the "town" as it is from the pre boom area. I like to think of it as "old Cary", the small corner of Cary that actually resembles a small town and not just endless suburban sprawl. On the rare occasions when I actually explore the newer areas of Cary I feel like I've stepped into the town of Stepford, CT. For example I wandered down High House Rd around Christmas to try and find the Blockbuster that was going out of business and while everything out there is shiny and new and upscale in a cookie cutter sort of way absolutely nothing about the area stood out to me.

 

Downtown Cary is actually ever so slowly getting better. I wouldn't call it exciting but it is starting to become "cute". Even though it resembles a town say the size of Hillsborough instead of a "town" of whatever Cary's population is now (140k? I can never really keep up) it has the greatest potential of any area within Cary to have an eclectic feel....that is if town leaders would let it.

Edited by NCMike1981
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I wonder if any thought has been put into creating a streetcar line around the Maynard loop. I don't know how well that would work out as far as connecting with the light rail, but it would hit several shopping areas and employment areas in town.

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I wonder if any thought has been put into creating a streetcar line around the Maynard loop. I don't know how well that would work out as far as connecting with the light rail, but it would hit several shopping areas and employment areas in town.

Or a street car from Amtrack/Page Walker to CTC...hits the whole spine of town and two destinations...

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  • 2 weeks later...

The south Maynard sections/Kildaire intersection has some low density commercial concentration that could be redeveloped into a denser more urban feeling area. Some adjacent streets could be slightly reconfigured along with redevelopment to make blocks even, Kilmayne being the main one. From this area, to downtown proper to CTC you could run fast moving bus service and have a sort of connected area among the older nodes in the Town. I sort of like this older area and wished the Town would focus more on it instead of babying Preston, McGregor and all of west Cary. 

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  • 6 months later...

Well, is the first step toward CTC de-malling? 

 

http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/12/12/4397488/topgolf-eyes-cary-towne-center.html

 

With Sears leaving, TopGolf has proposed tearing down the Sears mall building and building a new 3-story, 65,000 sq. ft facility that includes a driving range, restaurant, bar and lounge.  The rendering is pretty amazing.  Definitely looks like a destination venue that could attract visitors from outside the Triangle, like Bass Pro Shop.

 

But damn.  So out of place with a ****hole CTC right beside it.  

 

"TopGolf representatives met with Cary staff Nov. 26 to talk about the potential for building on 15 acres near where the Sears store currently sits, Matthys said. TopGolf is the only company that has expressed interest in the site to Cary staff, he said." 

 

This isn't surprising.  What new store/brand would want to go into CTC other than small no-name stores. 

 

I really wish CBL would get a clue, see the writing on the wall and de-mall and turn this site into something infinitely nicer -- a higher-end, mixed-use site.  But what have CBL been working on at the mall?  Removing all the interior stores from the old part of the mall and turning it into a small play area for children. That'll sure bring in customers. :-{sodEmoji.|}  

 

Cary is being left behind with Park West Village in Morrisville bringing in more and more new retail and restaurants.  PWV is still expanding "The District" area of the center to add even more restaurants.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Brendan
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I think that the "Town" of Cary has no real interest in becoming a true city. I think as long as Cary has the ability to add expensive homes, (even by swallowing Chatham), and as long as SAS continues to grow, then Cary really has all they really want or need. Why change? If you want change, move to Raleigh....IMHO

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What's a "true city"? If you apply a downtown-centric definition, I suppose Cary doesn't qualify. Otherwise, if it quacks like a duck... it does what large municipalities do, and the population of Cary is higher than Raleigh's population in 1980. In 5-10 years Cary will move up to 6th-most populous in the state, past Fayetteville. As to "town", NC law allows a municipality to style itself as a city, a town, or a village but makes it clear that the terminology isn't relevant at law. Cary was chartered in 1871 but didn't exceed 10,000 people for its first 100 years.

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When it comes to cities, let's face it, NC "cities" are lacking when compared to peer cities in other states. I was driving through Knoxville TN this weekend, and while a city of only 180K, it has more of a city vibe than most larger NC cities. Richmond, Cincinnati, Dayton and many other cities are the same way.

 

The only thing that I can assume is that NC failed miserably in the area of urban development many decades ago when other states were steadily pumping resources into their major cities. NC was mainly focused on farming communities. Now NC is trying to play catchup.

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To me its a combination of density and form. I realize I am an outlier with a lot of my opinions, but to me North Hills is a dense suburb, and not part of the city to me. The form is all wrong. (sure I am carving a single municipality into city and not-city parts). So there is my exhibit A that extrapolates from there. 

But really what you call a place doesn't matter...I don't want to debate labels. CTC's proximity to old downtown Cary I believe is its saving grace and should recreate itself in that image and not try to follow the river of manure that is Crossroads. 

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Setting aside the endless comparisons with Charlotte, I think it's fair to say that Asheville, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro are counter-examples to a dim view of NC cities historically. Those three had significant, prosperous downtowns in the 1920s. Durham, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and certainly Raleigh... not so much.

 

Other states have their good examples and bad examples. Birmingham had a significant, prosperous downtown going into the 1960s when racism and the closure of steel mills with high-paying union jobs tore it apart. Huntsville, on the other hand, was a backwater until German rocket scientists were placed at a secluded army base there. The city then grew exponentially in a pattern that anyone in Wake County would find very familiar. 

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Worth noting that Knoxville has a metro of 850,000 making it larger than every NC city except Charlotte and Raleigh.

 

That is largely the story. NC cities simply weren't very large until recently. Richmond, Cinncinnati, these were historically major cities and much of their growth occurred before the 1950s. Kansas City is another salient example, as a city Raleigh recently passed in metro population I believe. The extent of its built up urban neighborhoods is greater than any NC city. And it has a great stock of historic structures.

 

I suppose one area I could argue for Raleigh, Durham, or Asheville over these other cities is that urban isn't just about the density or the form, it's also about the use. Much of the areas in downtown Richmond, Kansas City, Jacksonville for instance are pedestrian dead zones, even though they may not look it from an aerial photo. That's common across the country as CBDs typically aren't the main nightlife areas--usually it's the adjacent neighborhoods in major cities. NC cities are a bit weird in that regard. One way that some NC cities can benefit from being a bit late to the game is that they lack single-use office towers that kill street activity (not Charlotte... but the others). When we do get new buildings we can do it right and have street retail in all of them.

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Not to pick too much but Durham was nearly identical to Greensboro and Asheville in 1930 at just over 50,000 each. Charlotte and Winston were 82k and 75k respectively. Several under-the-radar places like Shelby, Salisbury, High Point and Rocky Mount were boom towns then with double or tripling of populations in 10-20 years. Colonial towns like Fayetteville, New Bern Kinston and Wilmington all had steady but not explosive growth. 

Traditional downtown grids evaporated by 1930 in NC as did the trolley car, to be replaced by the ability of the middle class to own a car. The most urban feeling places to me were the large or growing places up until 1930, when Depression, followed by war, followed by full scale fleeing of downtowns (and regions too of course) forever changed what growing urban areas would look like. The refilling of abandoned downtowns is the only route back to urban areas of old....new urban is still built around cars (in addition to other shortcomings like lack of transit and mixed use buildings is many cases). Cary's planners are doing a decent job of working on downtown but since it didn't have any urban fabric in 1930, it'll never reach that 'next level' strata...but I think that is fine. Not every place needs to be that. 

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I suppose one area I could argue for Raleigh, Durham, or Asheville over these other cities is that urban isn't just about the density or the form, it's also about the use. Much of the areas in downtown Richmond, Kansas City, Jacksonville for instance are pedestrian dead zones, even though they may not look it from an aerial photo. That's common across the country as CBDs typically aren't the main nightlife areas--usually it's the adjacent neighborhoods in major cities. NC cities are a bit weird in that regard. One way that some NC cities can benefit from being a bit late to the game is that they lack single-use office towers that kill street activity (not Charlotte... but the others). When we do get new buildings we can do it right and have street retail in all of them.

Just to clarify, when I say 'form', I mean that to include the use of individual structures both  interior to and how they are laid out together. Good point though. 

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Downtown Cary has tremendous potential from an urban development standpoint. There is enough existing urban fabric to be a starting point, and the demographics and location are right for downtown it to easily become something along the lines of Arlington Heights IL, or perhaps even Bethesda MD.

The missing ingredients are will and momentum.

Will has to come first, because the town has to decide this is what it wants to do, and then create a regulatory environment to allow it to occur through zoning and other development-related ordinances. Momentum will then follow as a matter of course, buliding slowly at first - with developers testing the waters with small projects, and once they realize they have a home run, proposals will get bigger.

The Imagine Cary study currently underway is going to establish whether there is the will to do so. I am sure that there will be some supportive of it, and others along the lines of "Four stories? THAT'S A SKYSCRAPER, TOO TALL, TOO DENSE, CRIME, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" and I'm not sure who will win.

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  • 2 months later...

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