"I certainly can't speculate," said Debra Grannan, the Town of Cary's senior planner, during the town's neighborhood meeting to discuss preliminary plans to rezone the Cary Towne Center property.
Instead of focusing on what is moving into the dying mall, town planners were laser-focused on how the land gets used. They detailed the early plans to demolish the old Sears and Macy's stores, to shrink the outdated parking lot, build a two-level parking deck, and rezone the property to allow a newer denser retail mix to inch closer to the surrounding neighborhood.
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But, many came to Wednesday's meeting hoping to hear whether the rumors were true: Is IKEA the new tenant?
"Oh pretty evasive," said Cary resident and real estate agent Pam Campbell when asked what she thought was lacking in the presentation. "I don't see how you can ask for rezoning if you really don't know what you're rezoning for."
"(Town) staff certainly hears the same rumors as everyone else and we have similar interests and curiosity, but we have to focus on the use," Grannan said in response to any growing impatience.
The shopping center's owner, CBL & Associates, has been tight-lipped, promising a very "recognizable" and "in-demand retailer." But in uncovered loan documents, the land is labeled, "IKEA RELEASE PARCEL."
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Add the IKEA rumors to recent reports that uber-popular grocery-giant Wegmans has its eyes on land right across from the mall -- and the excitement only grows. It's balanced by concerns from nearby neighbors, anxious about increased traffic and more light coming into their homes during evening hours.
"Always concerned, sure. We don't want our property values to go down (if the mall continues to go downhill), but we don't want a big blue box standing right in our backyard," said neighbor Carolyn Rooney. She lives on Ivy Lane, just adjacent to the mall's edge.
"I would be completely excited if I lived further away. But I have to have these concerns when I live right here," said Francisco Alonso who lives on Ivy Lane as well.
"I hate to sound like a greedy real estate agent but if the price of your house doubled, that might help with a little bit of light coming into your window at night," Campbell countered, anticipating a North Hills-like building boom if IKEA and Wegmans were to locate here.
Throughout the meeting, town planners did their best to manage expectations and urge patience about what will be a lengthy redevelopment process. It will most likely be another two months before the rezoning request is heard by Town Council and another two years before anything is built on the property.
By then, neighbors and shoppers will hopefully know what is being built.
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