Cary Real Estate Report: What’s Empty

We usually write about new store openings or construction taking place around town. Fo this month’s column we thought we would take a look at what no one is talking about: The Empty Places.

Believe it or not, despite having a “low vacancy rate” in Cary, we do have some glaringly empty large parcels scattered around town, where lone chain restaurants, drugstores, and grocery stores used to do a booming business. Where are they? Let’s take a look.

Around The Mall

The mall obviously has a few of its own large empty spaces, but in the surrounding out parcels several spots have been tough to fill. La Madeleine– french bakery and cafe was only in its building about a year after taking over for a similar chain franchise operation. No buisness has ever seemed to stay here long..

Across the street, adjacent to the Barnes and Noble shopping plaza are two other empty buildings, formerly chain restaurants as well. Five Guys occupied one for several years and Macaroni Grill was in the other.

Not far from the mall on Cary Towne Blvd is the large former Performance Bicycle store that closed at the beginning of 2019.

The former Newk’s location on Kildaire Farm Road, had previously been the Hibernian Pub

Kildaire Farm Road

Everyone is familiar with the empty Carrabba’s about dead center on Kildaire Farm Road,. Its the building with the “green roof” which is slowing dying from neglect on the building that housed this chain. Carrabba’s as a chain is thriving elsewhere in the country, and even in the Triangle, but could not make it in Cary, where everyone is trying to open a restaurant these days. Up the road from this spot is the empty Newk’s which was previously one of Niall Handy’s Hibernian Pubs for many years and was something before that. A former Ruby Tuesdays sits empty near the Walmart in Crescent Green off of Kildaire.

In this area is also one of the many empty former Rite Aid drugstores, which closed at least 4 stores in Cary when they were bought out by Walgreens.

A former Ruby Tuesdays sits empty near the Walmart in Crescent Green off of Kildaire.


One of the out-parcels of Waverly Place was T Mac which remodelled and opened in the former Red, Hot and Blue. That is the only restaurant empty over at Waverly, as they are ready to open a brand new space with The Shack Shack later this year.

Sweet Tomatoes sits empty in the Centrum Plaza Shopping Center on Walnut Street

Crossroads Area

In the Centrum Plaza (the development where BJ’s Warehouse is located, along with Joann’s Fabrics and World Market) there are a few large restaurant buildings sitting vacant so long the weeds are growing tall in the medians and in the shrubbery adjacent to the building. We used to take our kids to Sweet Tomatoes when they were young. I also remember hating buffet dining with children as no one ever sat down long enough to have a healthy conversation. The food wasn’t great either. Sweet Tomatoes and its neighbor Wild Wing Cafe have been empty for ages.

Also in Crossroads is the huge hulk of the empty Toy R Us big box store which average about 23,000 square feet. According to the Triangle Business Journal two of the four vacant Triangle Toys R Us stores are being Official word on the Crossroads location.

Out West

Mostly its all-new west of NC 55 in Cary, but there are occasional closing that results in a large empty space. Nothing stays empty for long out there. Even Field and Stream became Hobby Lobby eventually. But while the Learning Express still does gangbusters over next to Walmart and Harris Teeter in Crescent Commons off Kildaire, they recently closed the new store in Parkside Town Commons. I expect its low foot traffic and high use of internet shopping spelled its demise.

Off of Cary Parkway in Preston Walk (near James Jackson Road) we recently learned that Eighty-8 Asian Bistro closed on June 23. This location started as a Mexican concept over 15 years ago, changed to a hibachi place, and was the home of Eighty-8 for the last two years. It’s a big space, and hard to fill. We are sad to see this one go, the food was great. For those looking to follow Chef Dai Nguyen, they started a food truck with the same name back in March.


Park West doesn’t have many closures and has mostly leased out the space in the former Gander Mountain store. That big box store was well over 50,000 square feet and is the new home of a Michael’s and a Home Goods with one empty storefront in between. There is also a small empty space that was a former Starbuck’s which closed this past winter. How can a Starbuck’s not make it in Morrisville/Cary?

While we know the mall will be redeveloped and The Fenton is coming. The Cary area still has plenty of vacant space to lease at Waverly Place and Park West Village. The freestanding out-parcel empties mentioned in this article are going to take a while to absorb, or may simply meet the wrecking ball one day soon.

If you know of additional spots we missed, please feel free to add them to the comments, and we will update this article.

Story and photos by Lindsey Chester

9 replies
  1. Ellen Dalbo
    Ellen Dalbo says:

    The corner of Cary Parkway and High House has a few vacant storefronts in the Lowes Foods shopping plaza. There were a couple of ice cream stores in one location that never lasted, bagel store and Mexican restaurant all gone. May be more that I cannot think of currently. I heard that the rent is just too high there?

  2. Steve Hall
    Steve Hall says:

    Thanks for this article.

    It’s interesting how many of these vacant spaces in Cary are in car-only locations. They are in seas of parking with no work or living spaces within (safe) walking distance. I think deficiencies in multi-use (live-work-play) development in the region from the 1990s is to blame.

    I’m seeing numerous projects popping up in the original downtown Cary now that inter-related functionality is being added through re-development. If Crossroads and Kildaire Farm had high-density living within a block or two, they’d likely see an upswing, too.

  3. Gary
    Gary says:

    Taxpayers have paid a lot for the “This Old House” and its renovations, on the corner across from the Cary Arts Center, down the street from the bankrupt boutique hotel.

    It’s another empty place.

    • Brent
      Brent says:

      The Sams-Jones House is scheduled to open by the end of this year as a restaurant featuring Chef Michael, formerly of An restaurant.

      It’s a leased property, so taxpayers get a return on their investment.

      It’s also a local historic landmark worth preserving for our community.

      And the boutique hotel remains in business.

  4. Jacob
    Jacob says:

    I think that part of it is that “back in the day” the “settlers” in the “outposts” of Apex, Holly Springs, and Fuquay Varina basically had to come into Cary for conveniences such as shopping and eating (restaurants). Now, as they have grown, they have developed more of their own places and are more “self-sufficient”. Further, since 540 opened, they have become more viable/attractive places for middle and upper middle class families commuting to RTP to live….. families with disposable incomes. Holly Springs and Apex now have higher median family incomes than Cary; Fuquay-Varina is not far behind.

  5. Leah Campbell
    Leah Campbell says:

    I was just thinking this morning, as I drove past the Empty Five Guys and Marcaroni Grill restaurants just how many vacant eateries there are in the immediate area. And then I saw this article — talk about timely. I think some of the issue is the size of these places. They are huge. It’s a lot of overhead to carry.

  6. Jennifer Faircloth
    Jennifer Faircloth says:

    My husband saw some construction going on at the Sweet Tomatoes a couple of weeks ago, so it shouldn’t stay empty for too much longer. Also the Starbucks in Park West Village closed because it didn’t have a drive-through and was a poor-performing store compared to others in the area because of that (I got this info from employees at the nearby Fleet Feet store, who had heard this from Starbucks employees before they closed).

  7. KK
    KK says:

    The situation with the Carrabba’s and Newk’s buildings on Kildaire really irk me. Is it simply a tax write-off for the landlords to let those buildings sit empty for so long? At some point I’d think it becomes a hazard having abandoned commercial properties sitting empty for so long.

  8. Doc Thorne
    Doc Thorne says:

    Thank you, Lindsey, for bringing this information into the light. Too much are we bombarded by media, municipalities, Chambers, business groups and Realtor(R) statistics about “how good” everything is, neglecting to mention the often short-lived existence of many businesses… It fascinates me when I read of many citizens “wanting” X-Y-Z to open assuring the rest of us they will last because X-Y-Z is better than all the rest. To these folk a single retort: If they build it, will you come?

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