Downtown Cary

Details on Academy Park Cary and More Downtown Developments

Cary, NC – Cary is set to see several major projects in the coming years, as a recent Town of Cary work session detailed the Academy Park Cary site to wrap Cary Regional Library and the Northwoods Associates project adjacent to First Baptist Church.

Academy Park Cary

In a June 2019 Cary Town Council meeting, Town Council approved rezoning around Cary Regional Library and the new downtown parking deck to High Intensity Mixed Use. This will be Academy Park Cary, with two buildings for a mix of residential, commercial and office uses.

“The town acquired the entire block and this section around the library was not needed for the park,” said Ted Boyd, Cary’s director of economic development.

Building 1 will be primarily a mix of office and retail, while Building 2 will be residential, with a ground floor with retail and amenities for people living there, such as a gym, a leasing office, etc.

According to Boyd, all total, these two buildings will have 153 Class A multifamily units, approximately 34,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor and approximately 100,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Downtown Cary

“There are bigger options on the corners for something like a restaurant or café,” Boyd said.

On the land in question, there is a descending slope from Kildaire Farm Road down to Walker Street, with a roughly 35 to 45 foot fall, so the two buildings are designed to match, with both buildings generally in line with the parking deck’s height. There are also open connections between the buildings for access to both Cary Regional Library and the parking deck.

“That’s why there’s a tunnel going into the deck currently. We’ll have the building going over it,” Boyd said.

Downtown Cary

Downtown Cary

Renderings of the Academy Park Cary building designs

To develop Academy Park Cary, Boyd said the town is working with the Knier family, the Stephenson family and the Zahn family, with the buildings to then by appraised by a third party. Developers will also pay to get access to the parking deck.

There will be a Public Hearing on December 12 for the development agreement, and if approved, construction will start as early as next year.

Managing Three Landowners

As Boyd put it, working on Academy Park Cary is relatively easy because there is only one landowner: the Town of Cary. But on another major project in Downtown Cary, it is considerably more complicated because there are three owners.

This project on the block of land surrounded by W Chatham Street, S Academy Street and S Harrison Avenue has three pieces owned by the Town of Cary, First Baptist Church and the Jordan family’s Northwoods Associates.

Downtown Cary

A map of the current landowners on this downtown block

Boyd said the objective now is to adjust and clean up the property lines for this upcoming project, with two commercial buildings, a multi-family building and a parking deck.

In this new outline, the western parking lot on First Baptist Church will be used for Northwoods’ apartment building, with the parking deck on Town of Cary land.

“It’s 466 spaces,” Boyd said of the parking deck. “244 will be sold the multi-family developers and the rest will be public spaces.”

Downtown Cary

The layout for the Northwoods Associates property from the First Baptist Church land. The Town of Cary will also be building the stormwater retention on the West for the church

The apartment will have 190 class A multi-family units, screening the parking deck on the W Chatham Street and S Harrison Avenue sides. As for the commercial buildings, Building 1 will have 75,000 square feet of class A office space and ground floor retail. Building 2 is 10,000 square feet of food and beverage space.

On the strip of town land on the eastern side, there will be an entry road to the parking deck, which will be sold to the developers for access. Also, Jones Street connecting W Chatham Street to the commercial properties will be turned into a “proper street” as Boyd called it, since it is currently gravel.

Downtown Cary

The two maps combined, showing how the property lines would change

Currently, town staff is looking to relocate the Ivey-Ellington House to make room for these developments. They are working with the State Historic Preservation Office to find another location in Downtown Cary but currently the top idea is for the Ivey-Ellington House is to go on the old Cary Library property when that is redeveloped.

“Its main historic context is its architecture,” Boyd said. “If moved, the new site would need similar prominence somewhere in Downtown Cary.”

This particular project has been in the works for close to a decade, with few details changing since work sessions in 2016.

“Lots of time and energy goes into managing the land and transactions,” Boyd said. “It’s a detailed agreement, with everyone trying to think through it.”

The first Public Notice for this project takes place on Friday, November 1, with the first Public Hearing on Thursday, November 21, 2019. The congregation of First Baptist Church will also need to vote on this proposal, with that vote taking place in either December 2019 or January 2020.

Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of the Town of Cary.

20 replies
  1. Gabe Talton
    Gabe Talton says:

    Putting the Ivey-Ellington House on the old Library site would mean less than 30 feet setback from a new 4-5 story building. Any more would impair the site which is not large from a new commercial development perspective. A cool idea but not a market feasible solution. Ironicaly, and I know I keep picking this scab, but the only real place it could go is behind the Mayton Inn on the site where the Mayton House was.

    • Owen Evans
      Owen Evans says:

      I agree that putting the Ivey-Ellington house facing Academy Street at the library site will limit its potential quite a lot. But the library site doesn’t only face Academy Street. It faces Harrison as well.

      So, how about putting it at 311 South Harrison Avenue?

      – South Harrison is a prominent downtown street, that somehow hasn’t seen as much attention as Academy – but could easily become great, with a few upgrades. Putting this house there, and using it for some community purpose, could be a big boost.
      – The lot is already town owned and vacant
      – The Ivey-Ellington house looks hokey and out of place in its current spot on Chatham. Both the Mayton House spot you propose (between a restaurant and a church) and the Library spot, (next to a major new development) would do nothing to help that. In contrast, South Harrison is entirely residential in character, and it would fit right in.
      – This is a part of the old library land assemblage, following through on the town’s implied commitment to preservationists that it would move the house there.
      – It interferes much less with the development potential of the acutal library site itself, compared with a spot facing Academy, leaving the entire library and its parking lot available for redevelopment, while remaining in more appropriate context itself.
      – Unlike the former Mayton House site you suggest, this would not interfere with the proposed FBC/Northwoods development project in any way.

      I also think the scale of a development that is possible at the Old Library site will be limited. I am skeptical that the community has an appetite for a 4-5 story building here. Near the library, at the south end of the park, the Academy Park development will be larger. While I wholeheartedly support that development, and it is downhill from most of the park making it less prominent, but I nevertheless predict there will be a backlash, and most future development along South Academy and vicinity will be smaller in scale. A 5 story building at the Library site would stand out quite a lot and possibly be a lightning rod for criticism and backlash.

      Therefore, something matching the size and scale of the Mayton Inn, Arts Center, churches, and homes along Academy Street would be a much easier sell. While stick-built apartments are possible and profitable at this scale, these are generally lower-quality Type V construction with lap siding and brick accents at best. This is a difficult scale to develop profitably if a high quality is demanded (and it should be.) The Mayton Inn required town subsidy, for example. An office building would probably be feasible, but is that what we want? Office buildings feel “cold” to me, even if they have retail on the ground floor. To me the downtown park feels like a living room, and is surrounded by community-focused uses, so I would expect something “warmer” than that.

      As I’ve mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think a new community center (to replace the aging Herbert Young Center) would be the perfect idea for the library site. The town is apparently positioning itself to build a major (250,000 square feet?!) indoor athletic facility in the vicinity of Fenton and WakeMed Soccer Park, so forget the athletic component here; focus on other community amenities instead, like: classrooms, ballrooms, fitness studios, meeting space, informal gathering space, kitchens (maybe a kitchen classroom with multiple workstations for classes and competitions?) Perhaps an indoor play space? That would be a SMASH hit.

      After that, sell or lease the Herbert Young Center for an 8-12 story development that would (1) realize enough revenue to make it worth the town’s while, and (2) catalyze more activity in a currently dull corner of downtown.

      It’s a big puzzle and there are a lot of moving pieces but I think this vision makes sense!

    • Brent
      Brent says:

      Or better yet, the Ivey-Ellington house could front Academy Street on the old library tract and a compatible development (who says it has to be 5 stories?) could be adjacent.

      • Owen Evans
        Owen Evans says:

        Not sure I want to take it as self evident that the best outcome for the town OR even the historic preservation of the house itself is for it to wind up facing Academy.

        A spot on Harrison would be a bit less prominent, yes, but much more at home in its surroundings. The house is in a very prominent spot on Chatham Street and while it is very evident that the house is something special, it feels badly out of place where it is.

        When you say put a compatible development next to it on Academy, I presume you mean to put another house or two next to it. But uses for houses are limited, and the revenue that could be realized through a transaction like that would be very limited. To me, Academy Street is the heart of Cary’s cultural district; I am fine with the houses already there staying, but things matching the scale of the library, arts center, Mayton Inn, and the several churches along the street should be the target for new construction, in my opinion. A redevelopment of the post office is inevitable at some point, for example, and I would expect to see something similar there as well – 3ish stories and institutional in character – rather than another 1-2 story house.

        In short, the town should be making the most of what it has on Academy Street, and putting houses there isn’t it, in my opinion.

        • Brent
          Brent says:

          Academy Street is the historic core of the downtown historic district. The presumed use of the presumably relocated Ivey-Ellington house is a public use (things such as a visitors center and/or museum have been mentioned).

          The Ivey-Ellington fits much better on Academy than on Harrison. It would be quite out of place on Harrison, but Academy has a great mixture of historic architecture styles and uses and the Ivey-Ellington would fit there and would have a good chance of maintaining its National Register of Historic Places status. Much less likely if it were relocated to S. Harrison outside the Historic District.

          • Owen Evans
            Owen Evans says:

            Let me preface this by saying that I am not an expert on historical preservation, and if you are, please excuse me, but somehow I think that you’re not quite getting the spirit of it right.

            Next, let me clarify: you mean you would put the Ivey Ellington house facing Academy on the library site (a lot three times the width of most historical residental lots), facing Academy, *by itself*? And furthermore you argue that that is likely the ONLY way to possibly do this house justice and to have it keep its National Register designation?

            First of all, let’s get the boundaries of the National Register district straight.

            See the below (my suggested placement for the Ivey-Ellington house at 311 South Harrison, highlighted in yellow.)

            You can readily see that there are *plenty* of contributing structures in the historic district that are not on Academy. In fact, the substantial majority of them do not front Academy at all. They are on Park, on Dry, and indeed on South Harrison. In fact, I count 9 contributing houses on Harrison Avenue – this is compared with just 8 on Academy! The house the town owns behind the library at 307 South Harrison (built in 1938) is listed as a contributing structure within the boundaries of the district. This is literally right next to the place where I’m proposing to put the Ivey-Ellington house (311 South Harrison), for crying out loud. 311 itself is currently a vacant lot, and is not technically within the boundaries of the district – but it does border the district, and looking at the map, appears essentially surrounded on three sides by the district. Adding this lot to the district’s boundaries seems like it would be a wholly and completely reasonable thing to do.

            While I acknowledge that the Ivey-Ellington House was originally sited on 2.5 acres, to restore it to its exact 1870 condition would be to pretend that Cary’s subsequent history of urbanization never happened, and to the best of my understanding, that’s not what historical preservation tries to do. Such an approach taken to its logical extreme would involve scraping the landscape clean of everything but the very first buildings to ever built in an area.

            In contrast, take, for example, the commercial building built in 1920 right next to Ivey-Ellington today. Though this building is neither on the national register nor part of a national register district, and in spite of how it is built in a way that is not very sensitive to the Ivey-Ellington house, a preservationist would likely in no way recommend demolishing it, nor any of the other buildings that today sit on its original 2.5 acre site, as a necessary step to preserve the integrity of the Ivey-Ellington house. That the family who owned the house in 1920 evidently chose to sell off a corner of their lot for commercial development is in fact an integral part of its history. This changing context reflects the fact that history is a moving target, not some static ideal. The transition from rural to village to town is an essential part of Cary’s history. Putting the house on a smaller lot is not ahistorical. It is well in line with things that happened throughout Cary’s history, and even to the Ivey-Ellington house itself, in the past.

          • Brent
            Brent says:

            @Owen I don’t know if I’m a historic preservation expert; you can decide yourself. I’ve volunteered with the Friends of he Page-Walker, a historic preservation non-profit, for well over a decade and I’ve been on the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission for 5 years.

            Yes, I’m suggesting that if the I-E house moves, and if it moves to the old library site, it should front Academy Street without adjacent structures. If it’s to be put to a public use, the additional land will be needed for accessibility, parking or other ancillary uses.

            Your suggested placement is outside the downtown Historic District (with which I’m quite familiar) and isn’t really suitable for a public use such as a visitors center and/or museum. Academy Street is.

            And yes, it’s my opinion that the I-E house would have a much better chance of keeping its National Register status on Academy than on Harrison. The State Historic Preservation Office would have a major say in this, but that’s what I believe to be the case. The house’s historic context would be better maintained on Academy in a prominent location that mirrors its current prominent location (Chatham Street was a “cattle drive path” and later became US 1).

            The first principle of historic preservation for structures is to have them remain on their original site. Moving the structure is a last resort. When moving a structure, maintaining its historic context is important. It isn’t an urban planning exercise of looking at a map and placing boxes within boxes.

  2. Barbara Wetmore
    Barbara Wetmore says:

    In an article published today (November 3, 2019) on, Ted Boyd was attributed with saying that “the Town of Cary plans to redevelop the library’s old site, which is located across from Cotton House Brewers and The Mayton Inn, and potential developers will be solicited in early 2020.”

    Does this mean that the Town staff, despite having discussed the library’s old site as a potential location for the Ivey-Ellington, as mentioned in Harold’s blog, has decided that is no longer an option? If so, what are the other location options for the Ivey-Ellington that would ensure it maintaining its National Register of Historic Places status?

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      That plot is large enough for both the Ivey-Ellington House AND some sort of business development. It’s 3 properties wide in both directions – along Academy street (Cotton House, the house next to it toward the park, and the empty lot of the same size as those two, that bumps right up against the park), and 3 lots deep (measuring along Dry, the library goes back as far as the Jones House, Cary Pottery, and the house next to Cary Pottery).

      In theory, there are 9 lots in that single current property, though you’d need to maintain one of the 3 along Academy to access the back 6. I-E could be given two lots worth of space along Academy, and still allow for entry to development on the back 6. See this little map markup:

      • Barbara Wetmore
        Barbara Wetmore says:

        Mark, thanks so much for the response and for the details that help me see how the Ivey-Ellington could sit on Academy, with room for additional development. I understand now why potential developers are being solicited. The map is really helpful. I am intrigued by the Cary Pocket Community Garden!

      • Eric Slivka
        Eric Slivka says:

        The town also owns 307 and 311 S. Harrison, so presumably those will be included in the library redevelopment for a full 3+ acre site with access from both sides.

    • Don Frantz
      Don Frantz says:

      No,it does not mean that the old library site is no longer being considered for the Ivey-Ellington house. It means that the Ivey-Ellington might not be the only thing there. The Ivey-Ellington “could be” a component of and compliment to a redevelopment project. There are no specific plans at this time. Hope this helps.

      • Barbara Wetmore
        Barbara Wetmore says:

        Don, yes, helps a lot. Thanks for the response. I hope the quotes will be removed and that “could be” will change to will be. If the Ivey-Ellington has to be moved, that spot facing Academy St. on the old library site gives it a chance of retaining its National Historic Register status and makes the rare house, one of only two board-and-batten Gothic Revival structures in Wake County, easily visible and accessible to the many visitors to Cary’s Downtown Park.

        • Owen Evans
          Owen Evans says:

          The town also owns 307 and 311 South Harrison Avenue behind the library. To me that’s a better spot for the Ivey-Ellington House: Harrison is still predominately residential, with houses of similar scale – compared with Academy, which is becoming more commercial in character, with the historical houses remaining there being mostly more grand and ornate in comparison with Ivey-Ellington. I am concerned that Ivey-Ellington would look kind of “hokey” front-and-center on Academy, (similar to how it currently looks kind of hokey, IMO, in its current location between two commercial buildings on Chatham), whereas it would look right at home on Harrison.

          My preference for the Academy Street side of the library would be to use the spot to build a new community center to replace the small, tired, ugly, 30 year old Herbert C. Young community center which provides a useful service to the community but clearly needs at least a major renovation. The way it is sited – set back from the streets, facing away from them and towards its parking lot, it doesn’t contribute to the town’s downtown environment in a positive way at all.

          A new community center at the old library site would be a great complement to the other arts/recreation/cultural facilities adjacent to the park. It would be popular, appropriately scaled for the context, and public, and therefore probably uncontroversial. The Alexander YMCA on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh is an example of what could be done. That building is three times the size of the Herbert Young Center, maxes at three stories (comparable height to the Mayton across the street) and would still take up just 1/3 of the total library site.

          After building the new community center on the old Library site, then offer up the old community center site as a spot for a commercial development. That spot is much more appropriate for a large-scale development than the library site on Academy.


  3. Marla Dorrel
    Marla Dorrel says:

    As much as I hate to see the Ivey-Ellington house moved, it’s good to see that the Town is listening to the advice of SHPO to relocate it on Academy Street. We’ll be watching . . . .

  4. George Jones
    George Jones says:

    awesome to read. I’m sure both will be 1st class. you’ll do things right in this town!!

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