Citizens Weigh In on Future Downtown Cary Park Development

Citizens work on table maps to plan ideas for Phase II of the Downtown Cary Park

Cary, NC – On Wednesday, July 25, 2018, hundreds of Cary-ites had the chance to give the Town feedback on the future development plans for the second phase for Cary’s Downtown Park. More than 300 citizens attended the workshop.

A little over a year ago, The Town of Cary opened the first phase of its Downtown Park in March of 2017. The one-acre site includes the iconic fountain, a natural grassy area, games (ping-pong, bocce and foosball), as well as a stage area, and seating. The remaining seven acres of the total 14-acre site bounded by South Academy, East Park Street, Walker and Dry Avenue has yet to be finalized.

Cary Residents putting dots on various ideas for the next phase of Cary’s Downtown Park

The Meeting

The community meeting held by the Town of Cary last Wednesday at Chatham Station gave residents a chance to meet the design team, see examples of past projects they have designed and weigh in on ideas that could one day become part of a landmark park. Parks and Recreation Director, Doug Mc Rainey and others on town staff, are hoping the park will not only be a huge draw for Cary residents but will become a Top 10 “must-see” for travelers visiting the Triangle region on vacation and business trips.

The community meeting kicked off with a mix and mingle that included free catered food and beverages while attendees were given sticky dots to use to “vote” on ideas that they want to see included in the future design. After a brief introduction by McRainey, Simon Beers of the design team of the Office of James Burnett (OJB Landscape Architecture), showed a powerpoint slideshow of other landmark projects the firm has designed including LeBaur Park, in Greensboro, NC.

From The Town Manager’s Office:

Simon Beers,  the consultant from the Office of James Burnett (OBJ), led the workshop and remarked about the impressive attendance and enthusiasm. Simon Beer, Project Manager for OJB, commented that Cary’s attendance and interest has surpassed his experiences in other communities. The growing excitement by Cary citizens is further evidenced by the completion of over 800 online surveys within a 48 hour period this week.

Citizen Voting

Around the room, residents reviewed aspects of the park that could be included. Ideas for public art, technology, open space, kid-friendly play structures, water features, food purveyors, pavilions, seating and many others needs were on display where dots (or “votes”) could be counted.

Next up were table discussions in which blank maps illustrated existing structures and topography. Discussion and debate were encouraged with each table having a representative from the design firm and a Parks and Recreation board member to facilitate and take notes. AT the close of the evening, the maps were taped down and hung for display and will be reviewed back at design firm offices.

While the park represents one of the largest land areas for such a park that the firm has designed, competing needs will cause some ideas to be shelved in favor of the best uses for the land. Different demographics will naturally use and approach the park differently and trying to satisfy the greatest number of users to activate the park is the Town’s number one priority. Programming in the park will be key to its ultimate success.

Another community event will be held in the fall to show the results of this exercise and further the design process. Look for information about that in the coming weeks.

Take The Survey

If you missed this week’s event, never fear, you can take an online survey for your voice to be heard. The link is here:

Story and photos by Lindsey Chester.

21 replies
  1. Jan Y.
    Jan Y. says:

    I agree that the discussion was well organized and well run! Good job Cary. I will say our group was thinking the same thing about not having so many people come to it. Why make it a crazy place to try and get into? Let’s have it be a gem that our local community can enjoy. Also, each table map included a dog park as an option. But Cary already has a dog park. I think some sort of large water play area for children (and adults), a place to grab a coffee, and some sort of Pavilion that can serve as a farmers market on Saturdays is really all we need. We don’t need to crowd it with 50 million things

    • James H.
      James H. says:

      I attended – and I put in for a dog “run” (not a park – a much smaller structure). My thinking on this was to foment interaction between local neighbors of the park. I agree with previous comments reflecting the view that the park needs to help drive some economic benefits for all of downtown, and that this requires attracting folks who would not just be walking to the park. However, I thought it fair (and sensible) to give a small amount of land to support those who DO live nearby – for an activity they will do several times a day – and give the park areas a constant feeling of attendance – not just during big scheduled activity times like the farmers market. A dog “run” is not a lot of space to give to promote neighbors chatting with each other every day. The Boston “common” park grew from neighbors walking their livestock to the central square of town, and became a civic center over time.

      • johnny jones
        johnny jones says:

        I agree with all that but we also have to keep in mind not only is this our downtown park (central park), a disproportionate amount of Cary tax dollars has gone into this park. I live in walking distance but feel strongly that this should be a park for all of Cary (& outsiders are very welcome). Would love to see a Museum similar to Marbles built on the old library site. Something to draw in families. A dog run would great as well.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      “grab a coffee”…maybe, but focusing too much on retail/food options and it’s a slippery slope to feeling less like a park. I agree with previous comments “It’s a park, not a food court”

  2. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    I attended the meeting. My biggest opposition to this park is that I don’t want it to be iconic. Why do I want, as in one article I read, someone coming from RDU to want to come downtown Cary just for the park! Let’s make it work for OUR community, a beautiful relaxing respite.

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      “Why do I want […] someone coming from RDU to want to come downtown Cary just for the park!”

      Because that person will come to the park, probably with their spouse/significant other/children, to listen to a concert at the park or do something at the Cary Arts Center, then walk around to see what the current public art installations are. And stop for a bagel at Dom’s, or a hot dog at Ashworth, or dinner at Pro’s, or ice cream at Fresh. They’ll spend money, which supports the businesses there, generates foot traffic and word of mouth advertising, which permits for bigger events in the part or the Arts Center, which draw more people to support more business.

  3. Gary
    Gary says:

    and, if you’re on a budget, remember the $1.19 Athena cantaloupes from NC, at Aldi!

  4. Jacob Nelson
    Jacob Nelson says:

    I think a major reason why the Current DT Cary Farmers Market is so “Weak”, and a future problem for any “expanded” farmers market in DT Cary, is competition from the State Farmers Market in Raleigh (just 10-15 minutes away). Hard to beat their selection, variety and quality. You want peaches? Try 6 different vendors and 10+ different varieties at the State Farmers Market. Hard for any farmers market within 5-10 miles to compete with that. Unless, DT Cary “area” gets much more dense and lots more people could walk there. But, if I am going to get in my car and drive then 90% chance I”ll just head to State Farmers Market and have access to “everything under the sun”.

    This explains why other Farmers Markets, such as those in West Cary, or Apex, or Holly Springs are more “successful”; they are removed enough from Raleigh to not be competing with the State Farmers Market.

    I guess DT Cary’s convenient location and great access to Raleigh is both a blessing and a curse.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      not everyone wants to put up with the crowds at the state farmer’s market on a Saturday morning just to pick up some lettuce, or have to decide between 6 vendors just to get some peaches. There is also a significant lack of organic and pesticide-free produce available at the state farmers market, IMO. DT Cary market can better fill a niche, if given a permanent structure, and better parking options once the garage comes in.

      • Len Nieman
        Len Nieman says:

        Agreed. Plus the promise of a space for the Farmers Market was one of the things that helped get the bond initiative for the park passed to begin with.

  5. Johnny Jones
    Johnny Jones says:

    It would be nice to have an icon open pavilion type structure that could have multiple uses (including the Farmer’s Market).

    • John Smith
      John Smith says:

      Possibly an open air iconic pavilion type structure that would have duel proposes. Seems that the spot where that small parking lot is on Walker would be a great site (next to the parking deck)..

  6. Brent
    Brent says:

    1. It’s a park, not a food court.

    2. The integrity of the adjacent historic properties must be maintained.

  7. Len Nieman
    Len Nieman says:

    I just hope they remember space for the Farmer’s Market was part of the 2012 bond approval.

    • Elizabeth Ryan
      Elizabeth Ryan says:

      Thanks for bringing this up. I put farmers’ market onto the suggestion board. When the market was started with the Norrises and others as seed group in the early 90’s, they were recruited with the promise of a dedicated space downtown, like Carrboro. Still waiting.

      • Donna Lennerth-Jones
        Donna Lennerth-Jones says:

        I was one of those early vendors and I have to say the set-up and take-down of the tarps rain or shine and the parking situation at the train depot was a deterrent to continue. Even back then we were told a permanent structure was forthcoming. I applaud all the vendors that work so hard and have helped transform and maintain the market moving it to its new location and creating a brand that town should be honored to support.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      out of curiosity, does anyone happen to have a link to the actual language used on the ballot for the bond referendum? I’m searching and finding ‘summaries’ that mention the farmer’s market, but I can’t seem to get to the actual language verbatim as it was on the ballot (I didn’t live in Cary in 2012)

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