Looking to the Future While Preserving the Past
Cary, North Carolina is in the midst of a downtown revitalization effort. Town leaders are focused on the core of this community and looking to bring new investments and vitality to central Cary.
At the south end of Academy Street, a 48,000 square foot facility that had served as both Cary High School and Cary Elementary since 1939, got a much needed renovation and now is home to the Cary Art Center. It incorporates a 400 seat theatre along with classrooms, studios, rehearsal space and offices. Since its official opening in the late summer of 2011, over 160,000 citizens and visitors have taken advantage of visual and performing art events and classes. Along with the Art Center project, Amtrac expanded its Cary depot and has brought additional activity. Both the train depot and the Art Center breathed new life and interest into downtown.
With support and funding from Council, the Town has acquired acreage on the east side of Academy Street which it calls the “opportunity site”. In addition to a park on a portion of the property, a boutique hotel has been approved and other public/private ventures are under consideration. A historic home and additional acreage on the west side of Academy and a property along Chatham Street are also among recent purchases. The historic home will open next year as a coffee shop and a German bakery is renovating another downtown structure and will open in 2013. The Chatham Street property was a downtown movie theatre until the late 1950’s. It is being restored to that original use and an adjacent three story addition will provide both expansion of the theatre space and opportunities for commercial concerns.
The Heart of Cary Association, an organization of downtown business owners and residents, which began as a program of the Cary Chamber, is more actively engaged in promoting activities in the downtown area. They are working with businesses and restaurants to promote shopping and dining downtown and they have sponsored other events that have locals excited about what is taking place in the heart of the community.
There is a lot on the horizon to be excited about. Commitments by both the public and private sectors have raised anticipation about what the future will bring. And the preservation of what has been here speaks volumes of the desire to remember the Town’s heritage. After all, a hot dog at the counter at Ashworth’s Drug Store has been a tradition for some 50 years and I have no doubt will be 50 years hence.