May 22, 2023 - Real Estate

Cary wants to convert its town hall campus into a mixed-use project

An illustration meant to serve as inspiration to developers interested in redeveloping Cary's town hall campus. Photo: Town of Cary

Over the past few years, Downtown Cary has gone from the sleepy center of a fast-growing town into an area with an expanding hub of new restaurants and office buildings, fast-selling townhomes and a soon-to-be-opened city park.

  • A new plan could lead to an even denser future for the core of the historically suburban community.

Driving the news: The Cary Town Council is currently seeking applicants to design a project for about 28 acres of town-owned land.

Why it matters: The lionshare of downtown's activity is located south of the railroad tracks that run through it, Ted Boyd,Cary's director of economic development said.

  • The city's property, located in the northern section of downtown, could be used to attract more development to the area.
Photo: Town of Cary

The property includes:

  • The 18-acre town hall campus on Academy Street, which includes the Herbert Young Community Center, Page-Walker Arts and History Center as well as the police station
  • A tenth of an acre that is currently home to a fire department building that is no longer needed
  • And nine acres of land the city is acquiring for a transit center for bus rapid transit.

The big picture: The town of Cary has tried hard to reinvigorate its downtown for two decades, and its efforts are starting to show, Boyd said.

  • Discussions about creating a new downtown park, for example, started more than 20 years ago and now it's months from completion.
  • Other efforts included: improving sidewalk infrastructure, renovating The Cary theater and creating a public-private partnership with a developer to build The Walker apartment building on the edge of the downtown park.
  • The success of local businesses like Bond Brothers Beer Co. — which opened a downtown taproom in 2016 — was also important, as it re-taught people that downtown could be a destination, Boyd added.

What they're saying: "You know, the town hall campus is a rather suburban campus in nature," Boyd told Axios.

  • The question we want to answer, he added, is: "Could it be reimagined to be a more efficient use of space for future town hall needs but also accommodate more residential, more office, more retail, to become an extension of the dynamic growth of downtown?"

What's next: Applications from developers are due by the end of June — though Boyd stressed that the future of this initiative and its timeline depends on what the city finds out in the application process.


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