Cary Towne Center is slated for a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.” http://bizj.us/1owfpa
Cary Towne Center is slated for a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.” https://t.co/kwlhkgUVtY
— TBJ Raleigh/Durham (@TriangleBIZJrnl) November 6, 2016
Last Thursday TBJ’s Amanda Hoyle reported that Cary Towne Center is working on some exciting changes. Apparently the plan is a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.” Naturally this set my wheels in motion considering the possibilities.
The mall is in desperate need for a game-changer. After reinventing itself with a large expansion in 1990, it has hit hard times since the opening of Southpoint. Cary Towne Center has a prime location, just off of Interstate 40 and one exit away from the Belt Buckle. However the mall is too close to Southpoint and Crabtree to compete as a high-end interior mall, and has deteriorated mightily, seeing anchors like
Dillards Macy’s and Sears close their doors. The mall has signed only one interesting retailer in the last decade, Dave & Busters, but the rest has been nail salons and low level retail.
Which retailers in other markets are recognizable and have that game-changing presence? The first that comes to mind is Nordstrom. The Seattle-based retailer opened their first Triangle store 14 years ago as the lead anchor for the brand new Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham. While the store has been successful, a different retailer in the mall told me that their Southpoint store has not attracted Raleigh people as anticipated.
Certainly Nordstrom is leaving money on the table by not having a Wake County store. The obvious choice for years has been Crabtree, and rumblings of “Nordstrom to Crabtree” and “Nordstrom to North Hills” have surfaced from time to time. However the anchors of these malls haven’t budged and the two centers have only been able to fill in with stores that need less than 10,000 square feet for the most part.
The real questions surrounding Nordstrom begin with the state of the mall. Would Nordstrom agree to be the lead anchor of a revitalization project? Would they want a new store just 19 miles down the road from another location? Nordstrom would probably only go for CTC if they were given the store for free, as the mall hangs its future on roughly 50 retailers that would follow Nordstrom. Would Nordstrom even want to be in a mall that has such a painfully 1980s design? It seems a totally new mall would have to be built on the site for Nordstrom to even consider the Cary mall site.
The second retailer out there that comes to mind is Neiman Marcus. The 47-store company has a store in Charlotte’s Southpark, however the same questions surround their possibility as those with Nordstrom. Neiman Marcus aims for a higher level clientele than Nordstrom and has less of a coattail effect, so their effect as the lead of a mall revival is not remarkably strong.
The other retailer that comes to mind is IKEA. The Swedish home furnishings company operates 43 stores in the US, opening about 2-3 per year. IKEA’s stores are roughly the size of 2.5 Home Depots, and the land on which the mall sits would be perfect for one of the large stores and some outparcels, perhaps even the pre-1990s portion of the mall. The location is excellent, near I-40, however the site does not offer highway visibility. As IKEA’s brand has become more prevalent, though, the need for frontage isn’t as great as it used to be.
In the aerial view rendering, I’ve placed the Charlotte IKEA store in the back of the Cary Towne Center parking lot, and replaced the mall’s 1990 expansion with more parking. An IKEA design like the ones in Woodbridge and Atlanta (the same size store sitting atop a two-story parking garage) minimizes the land needed and allows for further development of the property.
Since IKEA announced its Charlotte roughly 9 years ago, I’ve always guessed that its long term strategy for NC is two stores (otherwise they would have opened around High Point to serve all 3 large NC metros). My favorite site for the Triangle has been the outlet mall near RDU. Four years ago the site was rumored to be reimagined as a Chinatown, with shops, markets, and restaurants to serve the large Chinese population in the Triangle. The site has ample land and first-rate visibility from I-40. However if that site is not available, the Cary Towne Center land makes perfect sense.
Whatever happens at Cary Towne Center will be a welcome addition. The mall’s site has an outstanding location with strong demographics nearby, so a higher-end development should be a sure fit. With so many college students and apartment dwellers in the Triangle, Greenville, and Wilmington, an IKEA store in the Raleigh area would do quite well.
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