Don’s Blog: Fenton

Cary, NC – At our last council meeting the council unanimously approved Fenton, a signature mixed-use project which will be located along Cary Town Blvd. across the street from the future IKEA and Cary Town Center Mall.


Fenton site location

The “state property” (it is owned by North Carolina) has been on Cary’s radar for years. We have always had concerns that one day the state might choose to develop the site as an underwhelming government building or worse, an NCDOT fleet vehicle storage/service facility. So you can imagine our excitement when we learned that the state was putting the land up for sale.

The first developer to put the property under contract proposed a residential project similar to the Inside Wade project in Raleigh. While a quality proposal, the majority of council did not believe that met Cary’s vision for the site – an employment based mixed use center – and the project was ultimately denied.

Not too long after that, in 2015 Columbia Development put the property under contract and proposed a Wegmans grocery store and a sea of surface parking – another good project, but one that again fell short of our vision for this property and Cary’s Eastern Gateway. The state property is one of Cary’s last prime undeveloped properties suitable for large class A office development – centrally located between Raleigh and Durham and in close proximity to the airport. To allow anything less than remarkable on this site would be doing our community a disservice.

To Columbia Development’s credit they bought into our vision for Cary’s eastern Gateway, rolled up their sleeves and spent the next two years working with Cary Town Staff and the council to do just that.

The result is Fenton.

Fenton includes up to 2.5 million square feet of office, commercial and residential development with office being the primary user. Retail and residential however will be developed first in an effort to create a sense of place and an attractive destination where office tenants will want to locate. That said, there is nothing that prohibits an office user from coming in sooner than later.


Conceptual office development at Fenton

The majority of the proposed buildings that include retail uses – except for the Wegmans Grocery – will be vertically integrated with a mix of uses – that being restaurant or retail on the ground floor with either office or residential on the floors above. This will create an experiential “main street” to include “jewel box” retail and restaurants in the medians between the buildings – very similar to what we saw at Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia.


Proposed Fenton Site Plan. Purple indicates vertical mix of uses required


Example of “Jewel Box” Retail/Restaurant in between buildings

Six community gathering areas integrated into the development to provide both passive and active opportunities for residents and visitors. Eight parking decks are proposed with buildings designed to screen or wrap the decks. The Wegmans even gets a table-top parking structure.

The main entrance into the site will be on Cary Town Blvd. where the “road to nowhere” that is always blocked off is located. In case you are wondering how that road ever got there, the town built it years ago when NCDOT granted the access point on Cary Town Blvd. to ensure access to future development and the Soccer Park just in case NCDOT changed their rules/criteria later on.

Other access points will include extending Quinard Drive from Maynard into the site, East Chatham Street from the north and a new access road along the eastern boundary of the site from Quinard Drive.


Proposed transportation network – purple lines are streets


Future Quinard Road Extension

The project will provide for bike, pedestrian and transit facilities and the future IronGate Greenway from downtown will also provide access to the site.


Future Irongate Greenway

The applicant, Columbia Development, voluntarily offered over 100 different zoning conditions with this rezoning to ensure that what is promised is what gets built. This is unprecedented for a development in Cary. Conditions offered include transportation improvements at 13 intersections, phasing and vertical mix of uses, building and use location, parking structures, public art, streetscapes and buffers, accommodation for a pedestrian bridge from this site to the Cary Town Center Mall site, bike/ped/transit facilities, etc.

Two unique conditions offered include a design guidebook and developer agreement with the town.

Design Guidebook

The Design Guidebook is offered as a commitment that the development of all buildings, structures, hardscape, site furnishings, lighting, screening, landscaping, signage, and public art (the “site elements”) shall be “substantially similar” to characteristics and features promised by the applicant and “sold” to the town via their marketing materials and our trip to Avalon. Many elements of the design guidebook far exceed town standards.



Example page from Fenton Design Guidebook


Example page from Fenton Design Guidebook

If you want to see the entire Design Guidebook, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Design Guidebook link – it’s a 12 MB PDF.

Development Agreement

A development agreement is a legal agreement between the town and the developer. The agreement provides a level of certainty to the developer regarding what can be built when and what mitigation measures will be required. It also provides the Town with the opportunity to look at the long-term horizon and ensure that the development will fit with the Town’s comprehensive planning efforts and local policies in more detail than a rezoning allows. In addition, development agreements give the Town greater flexibility in determining conditions and requirements for the project, and allow greater latitude and more creative solutions to address impacts, including potential Town contributions.

Since the development agreement is a condition of the rezoning, no development may occur unless it complies with the development agreement. The development agreement provides the opportunity to address a variety of topics related to this project in greater detail, including but not limited to provisions related to timing, phasing, intensity of development, and funding of infrastructure construction. We hope to have the developer agreement completed by late February or March.

All this seems pretty complicated, right?

It is – which it is why it too so long to get here. To those of you anxious for the Wegmans, Thank You for your patience. It’s coming ;-)

In a previous blog post I compared the process to making Grandma’s famous chili – that if you rushed it or cut corners it wouldn’t be as good as it could have been. Same thing here. We spent a great deal of time making sure we got all the ingredients right to ensure a truly remarkable project.

That said, as with any project of this magnitude I’m sure we’ll run into a few unforeseen issues here and there. I am confident that by continuing to work together as we have been there is nothing we can’t overcome.

I really appreciate the applicant’s willingness to listen and work with us to help us achieve our vision. It wasn’t easy for them or us. But in the end I believe we have something that we can all be proud of.

Special thanks also to our amazing town staff who spent countless hours on this project as well as the Eastern Gateway component of the Cary Community Plan. As a member of the council I have had the pleasure – or not – of working with staff members from other municipalities or agencies. None of them can hold a candle to the dedicated and talented group of folks at Cary Town Hall. Cary’s staff are the best!

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading!


From the blog of Cary Councilmember Don Frantz. Photos courtesy of Don Frantz.

15 replies
  1. Tom Birkland
    Tom Birkland says:

    Thanks, Don, for the very thorough description of this project. I think this is exciting and I look forward to what’s next.


  2. Lindsey Chester
    Lindsey Chester says:

    Don, thank you so much for the thorough post- makes me understand this development a lot better coming from a council member who had to review and negotiate all the details. Here’s hoping our economy stays robust, and this gets built and leased as proposed! I LOVE that we are gaining MUCH needed office.

  3. Bob C
    Bob C says:

    I don’t like the name either Robert. I liked my suggestion Cary Page Central. But nobody else did.

  4. Len Nieman
    Len Nieman says:

    There are so many ‘conceptuals’ on the site plans, it would be nice if they also included ‘conceptual’ bus routes and stop locations.

  5. Robert Bush
    Robert Bush says:

    Thanks, Don. Glad to see this is moving along. It will be a great addition to Cary. That name, though. All I can think of is Harcourt Fenton Mudd from Star Trek. Not the best word association.

  6. Bob C
    Bob C says:

    Thanks Don for the “rest of the story”. Additional information lacking on initial site plan looks good.

  7. Jacob Nelson
    Jacob Nelson says:

    Thank you Don for the time and effort you all have put into the project. Between this and downtown Cary, so nice to see development coming back to the core and east/”old” Cary. “Old” because is was developed first as it really is a prime central metro location with convenient access to Raleigh, Durham and RTP. Now, let’s get some commuter rail going!

    Great information in this blog. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joy
    Joy says:

    I found it very interesting looking at the design guidelines. Thanks for sharing how to do that. I hope they really do keep to what they say: New construction that looks old but is not fake; Appearance of adaptive. I really hope this happens it makes such a difference in a feel of a place. Looking at photos of Avalon, this did not seem to be a priority. Those where my favorite architectural images shown in the design guidlines, a mix of new and “old”

    • johnny jones
      johnny jones says:

      Congrats to our entire council on this! & agree, Don’s blog is always informative.

      Agree with the new & old. Really like the architecture of the new fire station on Chatham. There’s a feel that in 30 years it will be renovated & not torn down.

  9. Lisa Sonntag
    Lisa Sonntag says:

    Thank you for this excellent summation of the city’s new project. The revitalization of that part of Cary will be very exciting. Maybe Amazon is looking, too? Thanks for all the work you and the other council members did to get us to this point.

  10. Cindy Jones
    Cindy Jones says:

    Hi Don. I am a Realtor who grew up in Cary and one of my clients just sent me the link to this post. This is very thorough and well written. Thank you so much for all of the information and detail. I am going to share this link with all of my other clients, as well as other agents in my company. Thank you again! This is awesome information!

Comments are closed.