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Cary Towne Center
Logo of Cary Towne Center Mall.png
Location Cary, North Carolina, USA
Address 1105 Walnut Street
Opening date February 21, 1979
Closing date January 31, 2021
Developer Seby Jones and J.W. York
Owner Epic Games
No. of stores and services 100
No. of anchor tenants 5 (all vacant)
Total retail floor area 1,004,210 square feet (93,294 m2).
No. of floors 1 (2 in former Belk, former Dillards, and former Macy's)
Parking 4,868 spaces

Cary Towne Center was an indoor shopping mall in Cary, North Carolina. It was anchored by Belk, Dillard's, Macy's, JCPenney, and Sears.

History

Cary Village Mall

Originally planned in 1972, the mall was first proposed as the adjacent Cary Village Mall and Cary Village Square projects, part of a $25 million Village Center by local developers Seby Jones (who built Crabtree Valley Mall and J.W. York (who built Cameron Village). Village Center was to be a 78-acre (320,000 m2), 75 store project including 3 office buildings as well as a (never built) motel. Cary Village Center fills the intersection between Maynard Avenue (a loop around central Cary), Walnut Street, and Cary Towne Boulevard (originally Western Boulevard Extension), the latter two of which continue to nearby freeways. The enclosed mall was built on the eastern part of the site, with office buildings at the center and two open-air retail pavilions on the north, separated by Cary Towne Boulevard.

The request to rezone the area to allow construction of the mall drew much controversy from nearby residents calling themselves "Citizens for the Better Direction of Cary" who worried about increased traffic as well as the property's proximity to Cary High School, Henry Adams School, and East Cary School. The group hired an attorney and pressured the town council to closely monitor the development causing York to complain that everything had to be approved "10 times".

Cary Village Mall opened on February 21, 1979, with 325,000 square feet (30,200 m2) of retail space anchored by Ivey's (purchased by Dillard's in 1990) and Hudson Belk (now Belk) as well as outbuildings occupied by Big Star Markets (later Harris Teeter). The mall's design was a modified pinwheel with four wings, three either parallel to or facing the three streets around it, and a fourth facing to the rear of the mall where additional land remained for future expansion. At the center of the pinwheel was a sunken, triangular food court. A large Southern Red Oak tree on the expansion land became an unofficial mascot of the mall, and was retained on a raised terrace at the considerable expense even after the mall parking area grew around it. The tree died a few years later and its terrace was removed and the location added to the parking lot.

Expansion/Transition to Cary Towne Center

In 1988, the mall applied for a zoning change for a major expansion, perhaps spurred by proposals for a "mega-mall" at Crossroads Plaza emerged only a mile away. In 1991, the mall completed its expansion to 1.1 million square feet and was renamed Cary Towne Center by then-owners Richard E. Jacobs Group. Unusual for a mall of its size, the mall remained single-story.

The new mall included a food court adjacent to the oak tree, a Center Court with palm trees, and three new anchors: Thalhimers, JC Penney, and Sears. In 1992, Dillard's opened a new, larger store adjacent to its original building, which became inline shops. That same year, Thalhimer's became Hecht's in 1992, which became Macy's in 2006.

In 2001, the mall was sold to CBL & Associates Properties as part of a portfolio of 21 properties in nine states.

Changes in retail landscape

On November 6, 2013, Dave and Buster's opened in the mall. Harris Teeter moved across the street in October 2014 to a larger location, later replaced with Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline, bounce house, and entertainment complex. Sears closed its Cary Towne location in January 2015, citing continual financial struggles on the corporate level. In 2015, TopGolf sought zoning approval from the town to open in what had been the Sears space, however plans were later withdrawn due to concerns over lighting and noise issues with a nearby neighborhood. Macy's closed its location in early 2016 due to disappointing sales and earnings performance. The Sears space was filled in May 2016 by a local furniture store, Cary Towne Furniture, which boasted itself to be the largest furniture retail store in the region. However, the store closed in December 2016.

On January 31, 2019, JCPenney announced that they would close their Cary Towne Center location on May 3, 2019. It was included as part of a plan to close 27 stores by July 5, 2019, which the company announced in February 2019. On July 12, 2019, Dillard's announced it was closing its Cary Towne Center store by December, according to a notification filed with the State of North Carolina. On January 30, 2021, Belk closed its doors officially. This will leave Dave & Buster's as the only remaining store awaiting the redevelopment that Epic Games has in store for their new headquarters. It is also said that Dave and Busters will relocate to a new location after the project is completed.

Decline and transformation to Epic Games headquarters

Plans have been in the works to transform Cary Towne Center from a traditional mall to a mixed-used development for many years. Spurred on by an announcement made by IKEA to open a 350,000-square-foot store in 2020 where Sears and Macy's were once located, CBL began the rezoning process alongside the Town of Cary to redevelop the property. The submitted mixed use proposal included retail (352,000 SF), residential (800 dwelling units), office (600,000 SF), hotel (600 rooms) and community spaces. However, in late May 2018, IKEA reversed its earlier plans and publicly announced the retailer was no longer coming to Cary because of the retail apocalypse. As a result, CBL announced that it had defaulted on the mall's mortgage and was going to sell the mall. On January 31, 2019, Turnbridge Equities and Denali Properties announced they had purchased the mall.

Turnbridge and Denali announced plans in October 2020 to close and demolish Cary Towne Mall to transform it into a mixed-use project called Carolina Yards, which would include retail, hotel, residential, and office space, along with plenty of open outdoor space for gatherings, recreation, and events. However, it was announced in January 2021 that Epic Games had acquired Cary Towne Center for $95 million from Turnbridge and Denali, with the goal of transforming the property into its new campus by 2024. The facilities will include both office buildings and recreational spaces. The mall closed permanently on January 31, 2021 with the exception of Dave & Buster's.

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