Cary pieces together downtown park plans

aspecht@newsobserver.comFebruary 27, 2014 

— Town leaders are slowly but surely piecing together a downtown park.

Cary plans to spend about $15 million to develop a park and commercial space on 20 acres near the Cary Arts Center.

On Wednesday, Cary Town Council members met with consultants to talk mainly about a $5 million town square that will act as the park’s main entrance at the corner of Dry Avenue and Academy Street.

Council members said they liked that the square will be anchored by a large fountain that’s surrounded by grassy space and a plaza with bistro tables.

They also liked that some of the street furniture will be shaped like instruments such as a violin and a dulcimer.

But they didn’t like any of the fountain options they’ve seen so far, so they sent designers back to the drawing board for a second time.

In January, the council rejected a fountain designed by artist Larry Kirkland. His fountain included a colorful column that let water flow like a shower from the top, where a 6-foot wind vein in the shape of a heron perched.

Some said Kirkland’s design was too bright and too contemporary. But council members said they weren’t fond of the more-traditional fountains presented Wednesday, either.

“I’m afraid we’ve gone from one extreme to the other,” Councilwoman Lori Bush said. “Perhaps we’ve limited your ability to be creative.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said the concrete fountain options look too much like those “you might find anywhere in Europe.”

“I want something that’s more reflective of our community,” she said.

Council members have said they want a fountain that’s a piece of art, not a piece of art that’s a fountain – something unique that “sprays water, lights up and has a huge pool,” Councilman Don Frantz said.

Cary will hold another work session within the next few weeks to review fountain options again. In the meantime, council members plan to look for ideas online and send them to the town’s project managers.

Too much art?

Town leaders also discussed everything from bike racks to whether the park should have an overarching theme.

Council members want to add dogwood flower-shaped racks around town, a book-shaped bike rack in front of the library and a mug-shaped rack in front of the Jones House, a cafe opening this year across from the town square.

In the end, the park will not have a theme.

Council members previously floated the idea of emphasizing nature, education, technology or the town’s history. The town could do it subtly on gateway monuments or seat walls, Cary staff said.

But the council couldn’t agree on a theme, or that a theme was needed.

Councilwoman Lori Bush said the rich history of Cary High Schools speaks to the town’s appreciation for education.

Robinson argued that Cary is best known for preserving the environment.

“I have a folder (of emails) from people who say they moved here for the trees,” she said.

Councilman Jack Smith liked both ideas and suggested they both could be included under a theme about the town’s history.

“Since everybody’s a transplant, maybe they should learn a little bit about Cary,” he said.

Frantz said he worried about over-saturating the park with art.

“I don’t want to be walking along some path and there be art, art, art, art, art,” he said.

The town hopes to present a fully designed park plan to the public before the end of May. Construction could begin in the winter or spring of 2015.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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