Handful of businesses take downtown Cary incentive

Raleigh News & ObserverAugust 2, 2013 

akenney@newsobserver.com

The town has offered a special financial incentive to downtown businesses since last summer.

Now the first year’s results are in: Between July 2012 and July 2013, Cary waived about $4,300 in fees for five different businesses, according to public records.

Each of the companies has set up a new office in the center of downtown since last July, when the Business Improvement District was instituted.

The owners normally would pay “development fees” to offset their impact on roads and other infrastructure, but the town has offered to cover the fees for new downtown businesses and offices through the summer of 2015.

Ed Gawf, Cary’s downtown development consultant, expects more and more people to receive the incentive as downtown development continues.

“All in all, it is a good incentive. I know people are counting on it and planning on the three-year timeframe for their development,” he said. “I think we’ll see more in the second year and, hopefully, more in the third year.”

The companies to take the offer so far include a land-planning firm, a real-estate firm, a jewelry maker, a finance group and a furniture store.

As required, all are located within about a quarter-mile of the intersection of Chatham and Academy streets.

With none of the waived fees exceeding $1,400, it’s unlikely that the financial incentive alone inspired any new moves to downtown. But one business owner, Scott Korbin, said it eased a long-planned transition for his office, which currently is based in a condominium on the edge of downtown.

Within a month, The Korbin Group plans to begin a 20-year lease at 209 S. Academy St., a more-prominent location in a 1920s home.

“It wasn’t until they created the (Business Improvement District) and made commitments to street improvements and helped promote downtown through evening events that it looked like it could be a cost-effective decision,” said the real-estate broker. “It certainly wasn’t the BID in and of itself, but it was a lot of different layers that started building on each other.”

Ron Lodholz, owner of Stonehaven Jewelry, was the first to benefit from the new incentive – and he had no idea he was eligible.

Lodholz had planned to move from Preston Corners Shopping Center in search of a “laid-back, artsy, more eclectic feel,” which he found in the historic Academy Street home he purchased.

Besides the price of the house, he faced the cost of moving and $40,000 in renovations.

So a discount of $500 didn’t tip the scales, but it helped a little.

“When you’re trying to move a small business and somebody gives you $10, it’s a help,” Lodholz said.

For Korbin, help from the local government offsets the disadvantages of working downtown.

“Imagine being out in the outlying areas of the town, where you can buy land cheaper, but there’s already connectivity to municipal services,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about tearing down an old building, you don’t have to worry about replacing old sewer lines, rusted, galvanized pipes.”

Of the five businesses to receive the new incentive, three did so after May of this year.

Once businesses are settled in, they can look for more government help: Cary pays up to half the cost of facade improvements for eligible businesses.

Korbin used the funds for a previous downtown office, and Lodholz is considering more work on the outside of his business’s historic setting.

 

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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