CARY — Ted Boyd wants downtown Cary to provide 10 different activities for visitors to do in a day.
He’s unsure the area has that many options. Not yet, at least.
Boyd would know. Cary’s new downtown development manager was familiar with the area even before the town hired him last month. His wife’s parents live in Cary, and he often rode the Amtrak train between the Academy Street station and his former home in Charlotte.
On a recent rainy afternoon, Boyd walked from Town Hall to Gather, an eclectic new coffee shop on Chatham Street. He ordered an Americano – no cream, no sugar – rolled up the sleeves of his striped shirt and thought about the area’s potential.
“Cary has a lot of history and culture,” Boyd said, noting the Cary Arts Center and The Cary, an under-construction theater. “There are downtowns that would die for that.”
Boyd, 36, is transitioning into his new job as Cary’s focus is shifting downtown.
Cary has long been Raleigh’s largest suburb, attracting thousands of new families over the years. As subdivisions and shopping centers got developed, though, downtown became less of a focal point.
Now Cary leaders hope to change that. As the next generation of home-buyers seeks a more urban lifestyle, the town is spending millions on tourism-boosting downtown projects like The Cary and the Jones House, a historic home that is being renovated to make way for a cafe.
And then there’s the entire downtown city block that could be transformed into an urban park that Cary leaders hope will lure new businesses and more foot traffic. A developer already wants to put a hotel on the site.
Ed Gawf, Cary’s former downtown manager who retired in May after two years on the job, worked to lay the foundation for future growth.
Boyd plans to pick up where Gawf left off – to promote downtown Cary and encourage growth in the town core.
His work in Charlotte
It’s a role Boyd knew well in Charlotte, where he worked as director of the Historic South End for Charlotte Center City Partners.
The Historic South End is adjacent to downtown Charlotte and is considered the city’s creative district, home to marketing companies, art galleries and performance venues.
Boyd’s work in the area began in 2009 amid a halt in development caused by the recession. Despite some challenges caused by the economy, Boyd engaged the community through face-to-face efforts and social media, said Darlene Heater, vice president of neighborhood development for Charlotte Center City Partners.
Boyd helped lure new development and also worked to preserve the area’s character.
“He was really instrumental in buoying the neighborhood,” Heater said.
“We now have 13 developments in South End that are announced, completed or under construction,” she continued. “And the neighborhood, which currently has about 2,000 residents, is expected to grow to about 6,000 in the next year or so.”
Boyd’s work garnered praise from the public and private sectors, and earlier this year the Charlotte Business Journal named him one of its “40 under 40.”
The attention was part of the reason why Cary picked him from more than 200 applicants for the downtown manager job.
“Ted has the talent, skills and experience to take our revitalizing downtown to the next level, which includes a focus on recruiting new businesses to downtown and helping us complete and promote several of the public projects we have underway,” Ben Shivar, Cary’s town manager, said in a statement.
Boyd said there are similarities between downtown Cary and Charlotte’s Historic South End. For one, trains bring people into both areas every day. In Charlotte, it’s through light rail. In Cary, it’s the Amtrak.
Like the South End, downtown Cary also has room to grow. And, Boyd said, it’s important that the Cary Town Council and town staff are dedicated to revitalizing downtown.
“This job is very relationship-oriented,” he said. “It involves lots of planning and community-building.”
For now, though, Boyd said he is in the midst of a 30-day “listening tour” around town. He wants to get to know Cary better.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht