Cary’s Heritage

Shopping centers? Cary has plenty of them

December 16, 2013 

’Tis the season to shop, and Cary has plenty of options when it comes to shopping.

Retail centers have cropped up around town as Cary has grown over the years. David Martin, a developer, built the first shopping mall in Cary at South Hills.

And in the book “Around and About Cary,” town historian Tom Byrd writes about shopping centers in Cary.

David Martin: In the 1960s, I built the exterior of South Hills Mall and the service plaza with bricks from the Cary High School dormitory.

I was hired to tear down the dormitory, so I hauled the bricks out to the mall site. There were many tons of brick. We cleaned them up and used them at various building projects of mine.

South Hills was originally zoned in Raleigh, but was annexed into Cary in 1974. The first businesses in the service plaza were a grocery store, and a lot of different smaller stores. Then we built the motel there, the first large motel in town.

I had to have a vision for this place or I couldn’t have built it. The bricks inside South Hills Mall were hand-made by prisoners 150 years ago. They tore down central prison which was built with handmade bricks, and they built a new prison. They just threw these bricks away.

They were knocking down Dix Hill, close to Western Boulevard, so I took a couple men with me, picked out bricks, threw them on the truck and hauled them away. They’re so colorful and beautiful. You have to improvise.

First, this was a mall, and then a de-mall. Now that Rose’s has moved in, they’re trying to re-mall. It’s all constant changes.

Tom Byrd in “Around and About Cary”: Cary Village Mall (now Cary Towne Center) opened in 1979. Then between 1984 and 1993 there was a real shopping center building surge.

Shopping centers built between those years in Cary include: Chatham Square, Kroger Plaza and Village Center in1984; MacGregor Village, Northwoods Market and Shoppes of Kildaire in 1986; Center 54, Northside Station, Oxxford Village and Saltbox Village in 1987; Parkside Shops and Waverly Place in 1988; Cary Design Centre, Harrison Square and Reedy Creek Plaza in 1989; Swift Creek in 1990; Cary Plaza, Crossroads Plaza and Hemlock Plaza in 1991; and Preston Corners and Shannon Oaks in 1993.

When Crossroads Plaza opened, Cary Village Mall, being only one mile away, became nervous so the owners greatly expanded it and renamed it Cary Towne Center in 1992. Both centers were a draw for people from outside as well as inside Cary, and the two malls actually complemented each other.

By the end of 1992, Cary’s retail sales figures for the year reached $540 million as compared to just $15 million in 1972. So all this expanded retail space added tremendously to Cary’s tax base and growth.

And retail in Cary has continued growing along with the town since then.

Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina ,” first published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.

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