Cary visualizes fountain for downtown park

aspecht@newsobserver.comMarch 26, 2014 

Cary Town Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson places a sticker on an image of a fountain she likes during a Town Council work session on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

PAUL A. SPECHT — aspecht@newsobserver.com

— Town leaders want a tall fountain that has moving water, lights that can change color and a base structure that represents Cary.

For weeks, the Town Council wrangled with ideas for a fountain at the corner of Dry Avenue and South Academy Street. Cary plans to build a $5 million town square at the site as an entrance to a downtown park.

Council members rejected the first fountain proposed in January. Some said artist Larry Kirkland’s custom-designed fountain was too bright and too contemporary.

The design called for water to flow like a shower from the top of a colorful column, which would be topped by a 6-foot wind vein in the shape of a heron.

In February, town staff presented the council with options for traditional three-bowl fountains, but council members said they were too bland.

So Cary staff and consultants asked Town Council members to email them photos of fountains they like.

The council met in a work session Tuesday to review the 60 images sent to planning consultants and town staff. The goal was to identify elements that each council member liked – not to pick a fountain.

“There were a lot of different visions of what the fountain needs to be,” said Brian O’Haver, a manager with Raleigh-based planning firm ColeJenest & Stone.

O’Haver had pinned an image of each fountain emailed to him on a big board in the conference room. He then asked council members to pick their favorites in a handful of categories: water effects, lighting, interactiveness, structure and aesthetics.

“I think we all want jets and cascading water,” Councilwoman Lori Bush said.

But they don’t want the fountain to be interactive.

“We don’t need this to be participatory,” Councilwoman Gale Adcock said.

Council members agreed that they want the fountain to have colors that can be changed or turned off. But they don’t want the fountain to be flashy or as complex as those that might be found in Las Vegas.

“I don’t want the lighting to be a primary feature, I want it to be a supporting feature,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said.

They also agreed that they want the fountain to have a structure, as opposed to jets that shoot up from the ground.

But that’s where the vision gets fuzzy again.

Some council members, including Ed Yerha, said they are OK with the traditional three-bowl shape. But others, like Jennifer Robinson, want to rule out that design in favor of something unique.

“I don’t really like the bowl, bowl, bowl theme,” Robinson said. “I just see boring, boring, boring. It looks like bird baths stacked on top of each other.”

Robinson said she doesn’t want something too elaborate, but something that’s distinctive yet “refined and sophisticated” even when the water isn’t on.

Councilman Don Frantz, who said he favors traditional fountain styles, agreed that the fountain “needs to have that wow factor that makes people want to come look at it.”

What does that look like?

O’Haver, the consultant, and Doug McRainey, the town’s parks and recreation director, will piece together three conceptual fountain designs to present to the council at a future meeting.

Cary hopes to present a clearer vision of the downtown park at a public meeting on May 12.

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

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