Day care joins Holly Springs industrial park

Facility will serve Novartis employees

akenney@newsobserver.com May 26, 2012 

— The newest tenant of Holly Springs’ largest business park won’t trade in pharmaceuticals, refrigerators or concrete. Instead, Imaginations Learning Center will care for the children of the park’s industrial and high-tech sector employees.

The non-industrial use of the Holly Springs Business Park raised a few concerns among town officials and business owners, but the Holly Springs Town Council approved a special permit for the business after reassurances from the park’s developer and town staff.

The child care center will have capacity for almost 120 infants and young children in a 6,600 square-foot section of a “flex space” building known as the Green Oaks Business Center, which sits at the corner of Premier Drive and Green Oaks Parkway.

“I want to be able to provide a high-quality learning environment,” owner Jason Worthington told the council last week. The center will feature a 12,000-square-foot outdoor play area and a garden.

The center is part of the Green Oaks Business Center, about a half-mile east of the Novartis plant. Charles Paul, whose company owns the future site of the day care, acknowledges that the business marks a shift in tone for the business park, and he says several more non-industrial facilities could follow.

“We’re working with the bigger players in that park, like Novartis to provide them with subcontractor like services ... that are needed,” Paul said. Within a year, he said, eateries and apartments could join the proposed day care and an existing kennel. “That’s all a result of (the new employees) Novartis is bringing,” he said.

For some, that change comes with concerns about how the park will mix its “lighter” and “heavier” uses. At last week’s meetings, two representatives of businesses in the park said the park might not accommodate the day care’s traffic well.

Tucker Cardwell, a manager at a neighboring Fastenal office, said parents’ vehicles could interfere with the flow of contractors and supply trucks, and another nearby business’ manager said the site’s single ingress-egress could be a bottleneck. Several council members said they shared concerns about safety and traffic, but town staff and the developer assured the governing board that the plan met the town’s requirements.

Erich Wilkinson, an architect with the project, said parents would arrive across a multi-hour window each morning, reducing traffic congestion; guardians are required to walk their children to the facility, he said. Paul, the developer, said 18-wheelers would load and unload on the opposite side of the building that parents and children would use. And Worthington, the business owner, said trucks are almost never present during the day.

Town staffer Laura Powell said the town’s planning department is “comfortable” with the proposal. “We studied it and determined there to be no issues,” she said. A 7-1 majority of the planning board concurred, with one member dissenting on concerns that the project detracted from the business park’s jobs-creating mission.

Councilman Chet VanFossen said he was “worried” about the site’s vehicle access, Councilwoman Cheri Lee said the situation sounded hectic and Councilwoman Linda Hunt Williams said that while the idea was “great,” a traffic problem could loom. Ultimately, town staff and the developer’s arguments won out, and the project passed council with unanimous approval.

“The location itself is ideal,” Worthington said. “Just being so close to Novartis, I think that relationship is going to be key in helping us really be successful.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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