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Cary Town Council Unanimously Adopts Downtown Cary Park Master Plan

Post Date:03/14/2019 8:55 PM
  • In a unanimous vote the Cary Town Council adopted the Downtown Cary Park Master Plan, the latest step towards creating an iconic public space in Downtown Cary.
  • The Downtown Cary Park Master Plan, developed by the Office of James Burnett Landscape Architecture (OJB), is a result of many months of effort and considerable public input.
  • Design of the Downtown Cary Park will get underway in May of this year and is expected to be completed in 2020; Construction of the Park is expected to begin in fall 2020 with completion in 2022.

Cary, NC – With great excitement and anticipation the Cary Town Council has unanimously adopted the Downtown Cary Park Master Plan, the latest step towards creating a regional destination in Downtown Cary. You can watch the discussion and vote on the Town of Cary YouTube Channel. The Downtown Cary Park Master Plan, developed by the Office of James Burnett Landscape Architecture (OJB), is a result of many months of effort and considerable public input. You can read the Downtown Cary Park Master Plan Report in its entirety here.

“For our generation and as evidenced by this visionary master plan, I truly believe that our new downtown park will be seen as the hallmark of our era. Once built, this beautiful destination will host lifetimes of memory-making while simultaneously serving as a catalyst for continuing private reinvestment in the heart of our community,” said Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, Jr.

“This master plan is rooted in nearly 150 years of civic pride, inspiration, and just plain hard work that has made and keeps Cary one of the best places in America to live, work, and enjoy. From our humble beginnings as a railroad lumber town in 1871, each generation of Cary citizens has given their time, talent, and ideas to create chapter after chapter of Cary’s amazing story,” he added.

In 2001, Town Council approved the Town Center Area Plan (TCAP), which included a proposal for a Town Center Park to be the visual and cultural focal point for downtown, serving higher-density development, nearby neighborhoods, and providing opportunities for special cultural and community events. The TCAP adoption initiated a nearly twenty-year effort to develop a plan and to acquire the land necessary for the Downtown Cary Park.

In November 2012, 69% of Cary voters approved the parks portion of the Community Bonds referendum, which included funding to help begin the park. In June 2017, the “Town Square” portion of the Downtown Cary Park was dedicated.  In May 2018, Council approved hiring the Office of James Burnett Landscape Architecture (OJB) to develop the master plan for the remaining parkland.

Through the summer and fall of 2018, staff engaged the public to ensure community members had opportunities to express their aspirations for the Park. The public enthusiastically responded to these opportunities. More than 500 people attended two public meetings and more than 1,200 online surveys were completed. Staff also obtained input from more than 200 members of the Cary Teen Council.

The Park will house lush native plantings and several gardens, including a ceremony garden to host celebratory events, an edible garden with curated produce, and wetland gardens. The gardens will provide opportunities for specialized and unique programming and are designed for education and hosting some of life’s most special moments.

The Park will include opportunities to showcase Cary’s history and uniqueness as a community.

Tying seamlessly into the existing Town Square and fountain, the Park will be anchored along the southern edge by the Wake County Regional Library, a Town owned 600-space parking deck, and mixed-use development fronting Walnut Street and the Park side.

The plan for this seven-acre destination calls for two food and beverage facilities within the Downtown Park, four interactive water features, a great lawn and an outdoor entertainment pavilion. Below is a description of the unique spaces within the Park:

  • Plaza: Early in the planning process, Academy Street was identified as an important edge for the future Park.  As designed, this plaza is the front door, welcoming visitors to the Downtown Cary Park. As a front door, it will be an active and flexible space and serve as an extension to Academy Street during special events. It will include food and beverage service, flexible seating, and an interactive water feature and offer programs such as pop-up markets.
  • Lawn: Located in the center and representing the heart of the Park is an open lawn space that will include a performance pavilion. It will serve as the central space for many Park activities and large entertainment events. With its gentle slope coming off Academy Street, it becomes a natural amphitheater. The pavilion will be a central architectural feature of the lawn and serve as an iconic meeting space
  • Children’s Area: Located adjacent to and along the northern side of the Wake County Regional Library, the Children’s Bluff space is designed as a creative play area.  It features exciting topography, water to splash, and custom play structures. The area is designed to allow children to be creative with their play. The proximity of the children’s area to the library provides a range of programmatic opportunities such as story times and book events. Adjacent to the Children’s Bluff play area is a Sensory Garden, which will provide an opportunity to highlight senses such as smell and touch.
  • Park Street: North of the great lawn area along Park Street is space designed for outdoor entertainment for all ages.  It will include flexible game court spaces allowing for both structured and unstructured games and competitions, such as bocce or volleyball. This area will be anchored by central bleacher seating as well as a grove area for shaded flexible seating.
  • Bark Bar: Along the northern and eastern edges of the Park is the Walker Plaza, serving as an additional entry point into the Park and including a food and beverage establishment. This “Bark Bar” will adjoin an urban dog play area. The Bark Bar space is a double-sided social space to serve visitors from Walker Plaza as well as dog-play visitors, separated by a fence. The dog-play area features interactive water, topography, climbing, and exploring surrounded by fencing and lush planting.
  • Waterside Spaces: One of the priority requests from the public throughout the planning process was access to water within the Park. One of the main features of the Park is the stormwater area. Aside from being designed as a beautiful and aesthetic water feature within the Park, it will be designed to collect stormwater from adjacent development surrounding the Park. The stormwater feature will have varied edges, both natural and garden-like as well as architectural and urban.  There will be decks overlooking the water, areas to lounge, and boardwalks and pathways in and around the water’s edge. It is highlighted by lush wetland gardens which will offer educational opportunities in addition to a “Grove Isle” which will be an island designed to protect several of the existing champion trees currently located within the Park. The Isle is designed for group picnicking as well as an outdoor classroom.
  • Activity Lawn: A secondary lawn is located along the eastern edge of the Park and Walker Street. This area provides opportunities for a variety of lawn games or small pop-up food and beverage vendors. Overlooking the Activity Lawn is a skywalk. This was born out of a recurring request by the public for views of Downtown. It will be designed to weave between the champion trees with opportunities for overlook areas to view the Park and Downtown.

Park diagram for release

A key feature of the Downtown Cary Park will be the level of programing that is proposed. Examples of the types of programs that might be offered include art exhibitions, arts and crafts classes, performances and concerts, cardio and fitness classes, book clubs, storytime programs and movies. The goal is to generate activity in the Park that will energize the Downtown.

“I am very proud of and grateful to the dozens of Town staff from throughout the organization who joined with our consultants in making our community’s vision for this incredible space a reality, said Cary Town Manager Sean R. Stegall. “Every day I’m reminded just how fortunate I am to work with such an amazing group of talented and committed government professionals.”

Design of the Downtown Cary Park will get underway this spring and be completed in 2020. Construction of the Park is expected to begin in fall 2020 with completion in 2022.

Images from the Downtown Park Master Plan as well as an animation of the Downtown Park are available for download here. For more information visit You can read the entire Master Plan Report here.



Primary Contacts

Doug McRainey, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Director, (919) 469-4066
Ted Boyd, Economic Development Director, (919) 462-3870
Stephen McNulty, Public Information Specialist, (919) 380-4240


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