Cary, NC – The rezoning and redevelopment of Cary Towne Center comes before Town Council at the end of 2019. This week, the Planning and Zoning Board met to look over the proposal, as well as new conditions and the architectural design guidebook.
Plan for the Mall
The proposed rezoning would turn the entire 87.26 acre site where Cary Towne Center and its surrounding businesses are currently and turn it to a Mixed Use Development site, with a Preliminary Development Plan (PDP) to lay out specific uses throughout the site, as well as the building phases for this all to come in.
The color-coordinated PDP calls for the yellow blocks to be primarily residential, the orange to be primarily retail and commercial, the blue to be primarily office and institutional and the green to be a mix of office and commercial. In the PDP, nearly all of these blocks also have the potential for a secondary commercial use.
In total, the PDP calls for:
- 600,000 to 1.2 million square feet of office and institutional buildings
- 900 to 1,800 residential units, with a limit of 175 townhomes
- 100,000 to 360,000 square feet of commercial buildings
- between 90 to 450 hotel rooms
For a hotel, the PDP allows for one to built everywhere but blocks 1-4 and 15-18.
Each block also specifies the height limits, with the tallest buildings by the SW Maynard Road and Cary Towne Boulevard intersection. Those central six blocks – 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 – are also specified as Cary Towne Center’s “urban core,” where some building heights can be limited to one floor and where design restrictions on signage are reduced.
Currently, the PDP designates the Belk and Sears buildings as structures that can stay standing and be redeveloped, though that is not a guarentee.
“It’s a fair assumption that everything can go away, down to Walnut Street,” said Planning and Zoning Board member Steven Crutchfield.
There will also be a parking deck on the site, which conditions say will hold 70 percent of Cary Towne Center’s parking. All three of the vehicle corridors have parallel parking on them, with Corridor A in blue the widest at 90 feet and also including a separated bike path and two sidewalks. Corridor C, in orange, is the narrowest at 65 feet and it’s primarily meant to connect drivers to the residential blocks.
Additionally, there would be four bicycle circulation paths and dedicated “bike boulevards.”
New Conditions and Changes
Since the rezoning came before the Cary Town Council for a Public Hearing in August this year, there have been new conditions added. One of these, mentioned above, is the limit on the number of townhomes in the residential area. The developers have also included planting 1,100 new canopy trees as a conditon.
Along Walnut Street and SW Maynard Road, the streetscape will be reduced to 20 feet and would be a more “urban streetscape” as described by Katie Drye with Cary’s planning department. This is smaller than Cary’s current ordinance, and the applicants are also proposing internal streetscapes inside Cary Towne Center, using their own design standards. For the exterior streetscape there currently, including the wooden steps into the mall property, the applicant said those would be removed. The applicants have also committed to keeping the berm between the mall property and the nearby neighborhood.
Other proposed changes to Cary’s Land Development Ordinance is limiting the number of drive-thru businesses to three and none of these can be restaurants. Also, there would be no cross-access between the mall and the gas station at the intersection of SW Maynard Road and Walnut Street. There are three champion trees on the property the developers are proposing to remove.
Because of the amount of office being proposed, the applicants also attached an option of reducing parking by 30 percent of what Cary requires, saying it is because people working at these offices would mostly not be parked here at night.
“We’ve been seeing this happen a lot lately,” Crutchfield said. “It’s a bit concerning.”
One procedural ordinance change here is an extension on a building deadline. Typically, after a rezoning, a developer has two years to build a structure for 100 or more residents or a 100,000 square foot or more non-residential building, or else they have to go into a quasi-judicial meeting if they want to build that. But because of the size of the project and how long it will take to build, the applicants are asking for this deadline to be extended until 2030.
The Cary Community Plan puts this site in the Eastern Gateway and specifically calls for this to be one of the most densely developed parts of Cary. But Planning and Zoning Board member Nicole Samuel said the Cary Community Plan also calls for more affordable housing and asked if that was being included here, since there is no condition for affordable housing currently.
“There’s a potential for so many residential units here,” Samuel said. “Also, the proposal is encouraging people to live where they work.”
Also attached with this rezoning is an design guidebook, which is a zoning condition and supersedes Cary’s appearance manual for this site.
For all building types, the guidebook calls for a mix of exterior materials, as well as keeping buildings in line with regional looks, e.g., brick, steel, glass. Nearly every building type also calls for visibility inside, or at least visibility into lobbies when it comes to hotels and residential buildings.
The design guidebook also goes into the design of community gathering areas and the opportunities for seasonal and temporary activities and events on these sites.
Additionally, the guidebook goes into the signage allowed here, and while, for example, signs on roofs or neon signs would not be permitted under Cary ordinances, and are not allowed in most of the blocks in this Cary Towne Center rezoning, they would be allowed in that central urban core.
Planning and Zoning board member Jessica Pearson, who has a background in architecture, said looking at the guidebook will be important because in large developments such as the new Cary Towne Center, there can be a “sameness” to the buildings.
“They don’t promote the variety and interest a community needs,” Pearson said.
At the August 2019 Town Council meeting, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht also specifically said he wanted to see the guidebook to get a better idea of what’s being proposed for the mall.
The Planning and Zoning Board will vote on their recommendation at their Monday, November 18, 2019 meeting, which will follow the rezoning to its vote in front of Cary Town Council at their Thursday, December 12, 2019 meeting. This will also be the first meeting with newly elected Council Member Ya Liu.
Both the PDP and the design guidebook are available on the Town of Cary website for public view.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of the Town of Cary.