IKEA Coming to Cary?


Cary Towne Center is slated for a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.”

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.

The Charlotte IKEA store and parking at the RDU outlet mall

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.


Publix Coming to Downtown Raleigh

According to trusted sources it appears that Publix will be the major tenant to the Kane Realty project coming to N. West St. in downtown Raleigh. The site, currently occupied by the ThemeWorks and Southland Ballroom, is zoned for 12 stories. So, perhaps, a mixed use project with a ground or second-level grocery is planned.

The site is in an area of NW downtown set to see some major changes. With the NCDOT bridge project set to offload Capital Blvd to eastbound Peace Street traffic via Johnson Street (pdf plan), we are set to see a major amount of redevelopment happen between Capital Blvd and the railroad tracks. Publix will be a perfect fit for this project.

Map picture


Jarrett Bay Store Coming to Crabtree

jarrett-bay-youth-boat-splash-short-sleeve-t-shirtThe latest brand to jump on the wave of nautical-themed clothing comes from yachtmaker Jarrett Bay. The company will open a pop-up store for the holidays on October 3rd in the area of Crabtree Valley Mall’s food court. The store will carry merchandise similar to their popular Beaufort store (shirts, jackets, bags, gifts, and more).


Vinyard Vines Coming to North Hills

vineyard-vinesGreat news for the Raleigh clothing scene! Upscale casual clothing retailer Vinyard Vines will open their 32nd store in North Hills, in the 3,500 sq ft location where The Varsity and Acorn once were. The nautical-themed stores feature bright, preppy pastels in a classic Massachusetts nautical style. This will be North Carolina’s second location (the first is in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte).

Boaters will love the arrangement of sconces at the stores’ entrances; one green light, one red light. (true enthusiasts will know which light will be on the right when shoppers are returning…to the store).


Aloft Set to Elevate Hillsborough Street

aloft_rendering About 10 years ago the City of Raleigh began the process of restoring Hillsborough Street near NCSU. The street, once a revered college strip of business, restaurants and bars, had fallen into economic malaise as Centennial Campus and the residences of students migrated south of campus. About $13 million later, the street finds itself cleaned up, however the economic climate has been slow to follow.

That all changed with the announcement of an Aloft Hotel, set to replace Sadlacks and the strip that includes SchoolKids’ Records, two thriving, organic businesses that survived a tumultuous streetscape project. The two have found new homes (Berkeley Cafe and Mission Valley, respectively). Hopefully the West Raleigh community is set to embrace a much-needed hotel that, frankly, will be an exciting upgrade to Hillsborough Street both functionally and architecturally.

The preliminary plans show the hotel containing 135 rooms in a single 7-story building. There will be about 6,500 square feet (2 parcels) of street-level retail space that are better-suited to the pedestrian experience than the current buildings. Most likely the second level will contain Aloft’s branded WXYZ hotel bar with a balcony. Behind and under the hotel there will be 99 parking spaces and a tiny pool.

The exterior of the building will be a superb addition to the street. The Hillsborough St. side will appear like two separate buildings, likely to stay consistent with the pattern of buildings on the street that are “1-store” wide. According to the Site Plan (pdf) (which gives more detail than the rendering posted by TBC), the left half will be brick and feature columns of windows sets of varying widths. The center stepback section will highlight the building’s entrance with a building-tall sculpture. The right side, though, will be covered with insulated light gray metal panels and feature color cathode lighting at some of the window trims. The design will be the most sleekly modern commercial building in Raleigh, which is appropriate given the hotel’s proximity to the NCSU School of Design.

Raleigh has a Hillsborough Street problem and it has a Starwood Hotels problem. Since the Phase One renovation of Hillsborough Street completed, the street has had trouble gaining the economic footing for which planners hoped. The Aloft project joins the apartment project down at Morgan as well as the coming IHOP project as the first wave of a coming massive overhaul of the street, and it can’t come soon enough.

Starwood Hotels, one of the world’s largest, has an inexplicably paltry presence in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. There is an Aloft and Sheraton Chapel Hill and a couple of Four Points and the Sheraton Imperial in RTP. However the only other Starwood property in Raleigh is the Sheraton downtown (former Radisson); BIG problem. Though we continue to wait for a Westin property, we will certainly celebrate the arrival of the Aloft, only the second new hotel inside the beltline in 30 years. We need it, and we need it fast.

map it


Wine Authorities Opening Raleigh Location

wineAuthorities Durham wine shop Wine Authorities will open their Raleigh location at Person Street Plaza (Person/Franklin Streets). The store focuses on “drinkers of everyday wine”, with price points below $50. In fact, the majority of the selection is under $15.

From the press release:

Wine Authorities has also won customers with the Enomatic – an Italian wine dispensing machine – ideal for sampling and tasting wines before purchasing. (1 ounce tastings range from 80¢ to $5) The Durham store was the first in the Triangle area to offer 12 wines for tasting throughout the day with the automated wine dispensers; the new Raleigh store will serve 24 different wines daily and boasts a larger lounge area. Wine Authorities will also serve local craft beers on tap, including Trophy Brewing, Crank Arm and the highly allocated Ponysaurus, once it’s available.

The store is planning a Mid-November opening.


Harris Teeter (not Publix) Coming to Creedmoor


One of the sites speculated to be the landing place for a Publix store will, in fact, be a Harris Teeter. Plans for The Point at Creedmoor (pdf) have been submitted to the City, and will be reviewed at tomorrow’s Appearance Commission meeting. On Page 6 of the Creedmoor Shops document show elevations with signage for Harris Teeter, specifically.

The center will sit in an acute triangular-shaped piece of land on the SE corner of Creedmoor and Millbrook Roads. Long ago the site contained a small gas station and store with a single car porte cochere. Ever since the widening of Millbrook Road, however, the plot has sat undeveloped. Joining the 50,000 sq ft Harris Teeter across the parking lot will be 6,000 square feet of retail space with its back to the intersection. It is an arrangement similar to that at Whole Foods in North Raleigh.

Not only am I disappointed that the store will not be Publix, I am disappointed that this development will be another soulless development crammed into a major intersection corner. Given the renderings, the development won’t carry any sense of character to differentiate itself from any other one of these we can find in any other instance of American suburbia. With arteries lined with forgettable developments, there is no reason to believe that Creedmoor won’t eventually follow down the path of other corridors in Raleigh that used to be nice.


Saving Big on Propane. It’s A Gas Gas Gas

tankexchangeIt’s grilling season, and Triangle residents are doing a little spring cleaning and getting their equipment ready. For most, having a good portable propane tank is key. There are several options to consider, however, regarding how one supplies the gas.

The most convenient method for keeping stocked with propane is a tank exchange program. The customer takes their tank to a home improvement or grocery store, and takes home a different, filled tank. If there are any problems with the tank itself, the tank exchange vendor will pull the tank from circulation. The tank refills at Home Depot run in the $22 neighborhood, but the customer doesn’t have to purchase a tank, pay a membership fee, or pay a tank deposit fee.

Another option is refilling an existing tank. Places like U-Haul on Capital Blvd (just beyond Peace Street) and Costco can fill a tank, as long as it is in working condition and hasn’t expired. Tank refills are $10.50 at Costco, and are in the $15 neighborhood at U-Haul. This is a considerably less expensive option thank trading, but there are risks and difficulties.

In order to get propane at Costco, you park near the tire center, and take your tank to the propane island for inspection. (There is a call button if the attendant is not present). Once the tank passes inspection, you go into the store, wait in a cashier line, and tell the cashier that you are buying a 20 pound propane refill. After paying, you present your receipt outside at the propane station, and take your tank home.

Tanks can only be filled if they pass inspection, however. The valve must appear to be in working condition, and the tank should not appear rusty. The handle of the tank has a date imprinted, and this date must not be more than 12 years ago. Any tank that fails the inspection is denied and the customer must find another solution.

That risk doesn’t seem so great, however, when one considers the long term costs. Comparing a season of using an exchange program vs. Costco’s refill program, the Costco program is staggeringly cheaper. I use roughly 3.5 Blue Rhino tanks per year, which ends up costing around $77. Even though the tank is a 20 lb tank, Blue Rhino and RapidXchange only put 15 lb worth of material in the tank. Therefore I have used 53 pounds per year at a cost of $77, or $1.47/lb.

Costco’s refill delivers 20 lb of propane at a price of $10.50, or  $0.53/lb. This would cost me $27.83, resulting in an annual savings of about $50. That’s almost enough to buy two brand new unfilled tanks ($27.50 each) inside Costco. Each tank has its own gas gauge and has a 12-year lifespan. Over that 12-year lifespan, a tank exchange program would likely cost me $924 while a pair of Costco tanks with refills would likely cost $389.

The Costco system of selling propane is a hassle, for sure. However the long term costs are so much less, they are worth considering versus a tank exchange program.


H&M Coming to Triangle Town Center

Amanda Jones Hoyle at TBJ is reporting that Triangle Town Center has added H&M to its store listing, tagged as “coming soon”. She said that no officials have confirmed this. Take that, Durham!


TBJ Presents New North Hills Renderings

Today TBJ posted a slideshow of upcoming North Hills projects that is worth a look. The photos show renderings for a 19-story building that will go between Sparians and Six Forks Road, the 6-story Midtown Green apartments, an amphitheater, a free-standing Chuey’s, and details of the upcoming Allister apartment complex on Ramblewood Drive.

Tucked away, however, in the slide show are images of some other unannounced projects, too:

  • The high-rise condos planned for the space next to the Brothers Cleaners drive-thru are still present.
  • The two high-rise buildings that were once denied by the Raleigh City Council still appear in the plan. The buildings would sit in the vast surface parking lot between Six Forks Road and Coquette, and Lassiter Mill. The plan shows the removal of the Exxon station at the corner.
  • First Citizens’ low-rise crescent shaped office building adjacent to their odd circular building at Lassiter Mill and Six Forks is also present.
  • At North Hills East, a low-rise building is present between Sparians and the Camelot/Dartmouth intersection.
  • A very tall cluster of buildings is depicted between Piola and I-440, where Aldert Root School temporarily sat a few years ago. Originally this area was to hold a retirement development, but with an amphitheater going in at that end of the development, I certainly hope the plans have changed.
  • Most interesting, though, is the pair of high-rises, taller than the Renaissance Hotel, that would replace the JCPenney parking deck. The current deck has seen better days, for sure. Currituck Road is not depicted in the view, however this pair would best logically fit between the Currituck extension and the existing JCP.
  • The Ramblewood developments appear, as backward as they are, to be in place as being constructed now. (Why in the world are the single-family homes up at Ramblewood at the main traffic outlet while the high-density condo buildings are stuck in the back adjacent to Drewry Hills houses? )
  • The (recently razed) BB&T and former Bank of America buildings across Six Forks from the fire station are still present, indicating some error in this master plan.

The plan looks good from the birds eye view, though the complex is going to have to have a lot more parking than it currently has. When that parking is built, hopefully it will make more sense than the CapTrust tower’s parking; the creepiest parking garage in Raleigh.

map it


Varsity Men’s Wear Closing

As predicted, the sloppy, Casual Friday trend continues to take its toll on nice menswear stores. The Varsity, a fixture in the Hillsborough Street, Crabtree, and (most recently) North Hills menswear scenes is “retiring”. The store joins the likes of the Stagg Shop, Wrenn-Pharr (& the Club Shop), Chokey’s, and much of the Nowell’s group as Old Raleigh memories. There is a sale going on until inventory is cleared.


Bass Pro Shops Coming to Cary

bass_pro_logoTBJ posted today that Bass Pro Shops will open their first Triangle location in about a year. The outdoor sports superstore will be located “in the Harrison Square Shopping Center” (across Harrison Ave. from SAS.)

This location has me scratching my head, as all existing structures there are occupied. I’ve seen no indication that the Harrison Avenue Carolina Pottery store is in trouble, at last check. Most likely the Bass Pro Shops will be in a new facility, just to the right of the shopping center, behind Wendy’s, and in plain view from I-40 (if the TBJ article is accurate). WRAL posted this same story minutes ago, but has a map pointing to a location 2 blocks south on Harrison Avenue. Given Bass’ site selection pattern, they are certain to pick a location that is visible from the interstate, however..

The move shouldn’t be a big surprise, though, as the opening of Gander Mountain in Morrisville has been a huge success. IKEA, are you listening? hmph hmmph?

map it

Note: According to WRAL, the Carolina Pottery is closing, and Bass Pro Shops will replace the Pottery and former Sam’s Club.


30 Predictions for 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 was an fascinating year, with the Olympics, the Election, and a little bit of economic traction, the year turned out to be more interesting than expected. With the close of the year, it’s time to pull out the old crystal acorn and make a few quick predictions (30 to be exact) for the upcoming year. (Don’t take these to the bank, though! If this thing were any good, I’d be in Vegas with it.)

  • Publix will begin construction on their first Triangle store…in Cary in the Davis/54 area.
  • Publix will pick Creedmoor/Millbrook for their first Raleigh store location. The new owners of Falls Village will make a strong play for Publix, offering to raze half of their center to accommodate a large grocery store.
    • Raleigh will begin discussions to tear down Memorial Auditorium – with the dominant bookings of the DPAC, Raleigh people are increasingly irked by having to go to Durham for so many good events. Leaders in Raleigh will talk about removing the center section of the performing arts complex and replacing it with a stacked, 3-tier facility to compete with the DPAC.
    • Violence will be an increasing problem in Glenwood South, and patrons will start seeking another focus for nightlife, most likely in…the Hillsborough Street area, which will be the next wave of downtown revitalization.
    • Orvis will close in Triangle Town Center and seek space in a part of the Triangle where their patrons actually live. Perhaps Kidd’s Hill behind Crabtree?
    • Development of both Kidd’s Kill properties will finally begin, but the Soleil Center/Westin land will remain an empty lot.
    • A new mall will be announced for the I-40/42/70/540 area between Clayton and Fuquay. It will focus on serving the Johnston County market.
    • Best Buy will close at least one Triangle location. My bet is the newest store, Brier Creek.
    • Between Liles, The Varsity, and Nowells, Raleigh will only support two, and one will close.
      • As brick & mortar retail continues to struggle, Crabtree will add another restaurant in its mall proper
      • While Washington policy will grow much more liberal than we’ve seen in the previous 4 years (increasingly hostile fiscal policies toward the wealthy, increased spending on social programs, and a stark increase in liberal social policies and transit expenditures), North Carolina policy will become more conservative, but not by much. In the next four years issues like Gay Marriage, Legalization of Pot, and Gun Control will stay put in this state, unless there is federal mandate…
      • …The Supreme Court will rule that Gay Marriage must be recognized by all states, and Federal Legislation implementing more stringent gun control will override North Carolina’s stance.
      • North Carolina will get an increased amount of funding for transit (regional “high” speed and local light rail), but the State of North Carolina will decrease expenditures in these areas, and no real progress will occur in the next four years, especially with light rail.
      • Raleigh will continue its oppressive assault on drivers in neighborhoods by reducing the speed limit on Glen Eden to 25 mph. They will also erect more of those contrived islands meant to annoy and slow drivers.
      • UNC and NCSU will field bubble teams in football, once again, that will get absolutely no national attention.
        • If the NHL season is cancelled, Backyard Bistro will close.
        • T-Mobile will be bought by one of the other carriers, most likely AT&T, reducing the number of carrier networks to three in the Triangle.
        • Free Wifi will be everywhere by the end of the year. In the malls, the restaurants, and in grocery stores. Most importantly, I predict that free wifi for every fan in the building will be implemented in the PNC Arena. (yay!)
        • The number of restaurants with tablet menus will grow quickly. In fact, only cheap or snobby restaurants will be without a tablet presence by the end of 2013.
        • Buca di Beppo will announce their first Raleigh/Cary location
        • PDQ will announce two more locations. One in the Southpoint area and one in Cary.
          • One of downtown Raleigh’s Indian restaurants will close. Will it be Blue Mango or Mantra that survives?
            • BJ’s Brewhouse will announce their first North Carolina locations – on in Charlotte, one in Cary.
            • The next big culinary ethnicity, after Mexican starts to fade, will be South American. Restaurants like Machupicchu and Guasaca will have excellent years, but will see more competition, too, especially in the casual dining space.
            • Guacamole variations will be the next trend within the Mexican food space
            • The IHOP on Hillsborough Street will close, but will be replaced in 2014 by a mixed use apartment building that will have street level retail, including a new IHOP. (This is a planned project. The prediction is that execution will begin this year)
            • The Triangle will be selected as the site for filming a nationally prominent movie.
            • No significant changes to Raleigh’s skyline will be introduced in 2013.
            • A MakerBot-like 3D printing business will open in Raleigh, allowing people to create functional and artistic plastic items just-in-time.
            • Here’s the big one: 2013 will be the Year of Durham, and the crowning moment will be an announcement by Google that their second Google Fiber city will be…Durham.
            top -->