Cary, NC — Wednesday morning, just days before the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Downtown Cary Park, detailed updates on what’s to come for the 7-acre site were presented by Joy Ennis, the General Manager of the park.
The event, hosted by the Cary Chamber of Commerce, included dozens of renderings, key highlights of a few incoming features and a few questions from the crowd of more than 100 members, guests and Town of Cary representatives.
An Engine of Economic Development
Ennis affectionately calls this park the “most beautiful economic development engine you’ll ever see.”
For month’s we’ve known that the expansive green space in the heart of Downtown Cary will feature an elevated skywalk, water features, an up-scale dog park, children’s play areas and various structures for food, beverage, retail, markets and other events. Though, Wednesday represented the first public showing of the build-to-scale model of the park and a deeper look into what the park will be able to accommodate from a putting green to a beer and wine bar.
Estimated 25-50K Visitors Per Day
A few jaws dropped around the room during a brief Q & A session when one person asked about the capacity of the park. Specifically, she wondered how many people are anticipated to go through on any given day.
While there’s no way to be certain of the number just yet, Ennis provided a guess of anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 per day.
“Other parks of this size in the nation welcome well over a million visitors a year,” said Ennis.
A follow-up question asked about traffic patterns and how that might change the flow we now know in downtown Cary.
To this, Ennis said she doesn’t believe the traffic pattern will change. She pointed to a municipal bus stop being right outside the park and the parking deck behind the library. Additionally, Ennis said more potential parking structures are being considered for downtown.
Color-Changing Water Features
The water features of the park have always been high on the totem pole of the planning process — both for their beauty and their function as a solution for stormwater and drainage throughout the 7-acre site.
As Ennis described, water will flow under a bridge into what’s called the middle pond and water continue to flow down the topography from there into the lower pond. The lower pond will have an island on it that will be able to be accessed by a Bridgeway. As far as the nuts and bolts to these features, Ennis says they don’t only function as a place for stormwater for the park, but they will also provide solutions for neighboring areas and businesses.
“One of the really curious things that a lot of people don’t know is there is a dye system that is incorporated,” said Ennis.
The system will allow staff to control the colors, such as utilizing a green dye for St. Patrick Day. Though, Ennis said the line was drawn on utilizing red for Valentine’s Day as that would not look the most appealing.
An Intertwining Skywalk
The skywalk will be positioned about 12 feet in the air and measures a total of about 500 linear feet. This will be a place for exercise and leisure at a different vantage point of the park, but also serves the purpose of allowing folks to get down to the botanical garden that will be below it.
“66,000 plants are going to go into this park,” said Ennis.
While a lot of her presentation surrounded buildings and structural elements of the park, she said “those are going to be the bones of the park and the beauty of the park is going to be the 66,000 plants and over 600 trees.” These will go in small with a goal for the park to be lush in the long run.
The Gathering Garden & Multi-Use Jewel-Box Building
Located adjacent to the Mayton Inn and directly behind Cotton House will be what’s called the Gathering Garden. This area is what Ennis called a quieter area of the park. Outside of a garden, the area will also host a small structure at about 1,500-2,000 square feet. Ennis said this will function as a rental area and can open up to be an open-air pavilion, or have the walls come down to create an all-indoor space.
This building would be used for a variety of functions. It will be able to accommodate 100 people for events such as weddings, classes, pop-up markets and more.
“The opportunities that this structure offers are really, really amazing. It’s a small structure, but that’s okay because it doesn’t need to be large to have a really big impact,” said Ennis.
This area could also potentially serve as a collaborative space with the Mayton for weddings and parties as well.
Because of the dual-functionality of the park as a quiet, public space and also a space that will have events and gatherings, Ennis says the staff will be looking to find the right balance and rhythm for the park, particularly in the first 6 months of being open to the community.
A Customizable Putting Green
Fans of golf will be thrilled to know that a three-hole putting green will also be available at the park for some leisurely family fun or even tournament-style play. Ennis says the holes and pin flags will even be moveable so that the park staff can continuously create new experiences as park-goers continue to return to the green.
“I’d want to have little flags made, maybe with the name of the park on it, so that it’s really interesting and fun. I’m looking forward to this and hoping that my golf game gets a little better,” said Ennis.
As far as the official name of the park, that is being kept a secret until the official groundbreaking ceremony at the park this Saturday, June 25. Here are more details on the groundbreaking.
The Nest: A Kid’s Paradise
For both kids and kids at heart, Ennis said “this area is really for imaginative play, not prescriptive play.”
The nest also utilizes the natural topography for a variety of slides, which will be accessible for kids of varying ability levels. A couple of the slides even branch out from handcrafted, 20-foot-tall cardinals that Ennis suggested might lead to a future naming contest.
The play area includes a variety of fun and active elements, including a water sprayer zone that will be fitted with bricks that actually soak up the water to prevent puddling.
Dog Park & Bark Bar
Positioned toward the corner of Park Street and Walker Street will be a dog park unlike any other in Cary. It is set to have boulders, logs, interactive water features and more.
As if that weren’t enough to keep local dog owners thrilled, the dog park will also have a Bark Bar. This will be stocked with locally sourced brews and other beverages for the adults to enjoy while their fur babies make a few new friends.
Night Lighting and Donated Digital Kiosks
The night feel of the park is intended to be cozy and Ennis says several light plans are available to use at different times of the night for both safety and courtesy to neighbors.
Kiosks will be implemented throughout the park, thanks to the Town of Cary’s MIT department who got all of them donated from a company called American Tower. Without these efforts, they would have run up a tab of about $50,000 apiece. These informational kiosks will be 11 feet tall. In addition to this technology, the park will feature free Wi-Fi throughout.
Food Trucks, Foosball & Public Art
A section of the 7-acre park will be used as an outdoor food court with room for about 10 food trucks. Ennis says that electric infrastructure will be built into this area to eliminate the noise effect of generators.
Before being fenced off and removed in the construction process, the table tennis and foosball tables were quite popular along Academy Street near the fountain. With this in mind, Ennis said the park will have an expanded space with four tables, two for foosball and two for table tennis.
For those coming into the park to relax, gather and stay awhile, the planners of the park have also chosen furniture throughout the park that is moveable, including dining tables, chairs, chaise lounges and big outdoor bean bags.
This, Ennis said, is so people can create their own experiences and spaces in the park. That might be to meet under the shade of a tree or to create a circle for conversation.
Public art will be created for the site by artists Thomas Drugan, Laura Haddad and Marc Fornes.
Academy Plaza & Completion Date
It will be a whole new scene walking into the park from Academy Street. Looking at the positioning of the familiar downtown fountain, the uniquely shaped structure adjacent to the fountain is being called the Academy Plaza Market.
This space, as Ennis described, will feature rentals and for-purchase items that are centered around the park experience. For example, if a parent forgets a swim diaper or kids need another dose of sunscreen, this spot will provide for that and more.
In closing her presentation, Ennis said the Imagine Cary Community Plan that Cary residents worked to put together with extensive thought and planning is already revealing fruit.
She continued on to say that “the promise of the Imagine Cary plan is already showing up and I think this park is really the embodiment of that.”
Following the groundbreaking ceremony tomorrow, the Downtown Park will continue to come to life over the course of another two years with construction estimated to be complete in Summer 2023. In particular, Ennis says the goal is for June.
Story and meeting photos by Ashley Kairis. Park renderings courtesy of Joy Ennis & the Town of Cary.
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