Published: Jul 06, 2012 06:27 PM
Modified: Jul 06, 2012 06:28 PM
CARY - Dozens of people filled a downtown church sanctuary last week to see the future of their aging neighborhood. The posters arranged around the pulpit showed it in blocks and bright colors: A retail and office center in place of the former Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church campus, multistory apartment buildings and townhomes in place of the rows of cottages just north of the old building.
Tentative plans would invite developers to build two- to five-story buildings across 40 acres around Boyd Street where rows of small homes now stand. The dramatic change seemed to surprise no one.
Some who sat in the stained-glass filtered light have been waiting years for a chance to sell their modest homes. To them, the meeting last week showed their plan to move en masse finally has the local government’s support.
“This is really the first time that we can say the town of Cary is working with us,” said Marlon Williams, an organizer of the community sale attempt.
The idea so far has strong majority support in the neighborhood. Of 54 property owners, 33 have committed to the group sale, 15 are unsure and six have no interest, he said. A joint sale would stop developers from picking off lots one-by-one at low prices, Williams said.
No plans are concrete and no development is in motion yet. Town of Cary staff have only drafted a roadmap for how the area might develop. They’re plotting a change to the town’s land-use plans, which would open the door for a rezoning of the neighborhood, which would in turn allow developers to build those townhomes, stores and apartments.
The rough proposal calls for up to three five-story apartment complexes, three smaller townhome or apartment facilities, and two mixed-use centers with no more than four or five floors each, with Kingswood Elementary School still at the heart of the neighborhood. Downtown Manager Ed Gawf thinks the land could be attractive to developers looking to hook onto the town’s downtown revitalization push.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time for this to happen. We’re ready,” said one woman, drawing an “amen” from the crowd.
But “that’s easy for you to say,” shot back Patricia Mills. She’s worried that she won’t get enough money to comfortably relocate from her Habitat for Humanity-built home, judging from Williams’ early formula for the distribution of sale profits.
“We don’t want to be displaced again,” said Mills, 51, a 14-year resident of the neighborhood. “I thought this was going to be home for me.”
Others, such as Sallie Jones, simply like the area and don’t want to see it go. And people from the neighborhood’s borders, meanwhile, worried about the potential construction’s effect on their homes and property values.
“From the bedroom window, a two-story townhome is one thing, a five-story apartment is another,” said Walter Stead, 63.
Mary Harris, 64, a retired nurse assistant, said the plan has enough momentum to gain her support.
“They sell, I’m selling,” she said outside the church. If it happens, “I’m gonna buy me another house. Make sure I have enough space I can have me a garden.”