WESTERN WAKE SURGES FORWARD
Five communities with diverse characteristics share a theme of progressive changes and energized living.
By Cheryl Capaldo Traylor
Where Green Colors the Future
Mention Cary and the word growth almost instantly enters the conversation. New roads, schools, homes, parks, and shopping centers are continually sprouting everywhere. But what else is growing in Cary? Wildlife habitat gardens, native plants, and sustainable food crops!
In 2017, Cary became the first community in the Triangle to be designated a certified Community Wildlife Habitat. The in-depth certification process normally takes four to five years to complete. With the help of many eager citizens, Cary achieved it in two. The program began in January 2015 when the Town of Cary’s Environmental Advisory Board recommended it to the town council and garnered unanimous approval. The town partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to create the Cary Garden for Wildlife Program. The town was required to have 400 participants including a mix of homeowners, schools, and community groups like churches. Each of these contributors pledged to make their own gardens “certified wildlife gardens” by engaging in sustainable gardening practices and by providing wildlife with food and water sources, places to raise their young, and shelter from predators and weather.
Cary Town Council at-large representative, Lori Bush, says, “The goal is to give people a way to connect to their natural world, whether through enticing birds, butterflies, bees, or other wildlife—right where they are.” To reach this goal, the town held environmental educational events such as compost workshops and nature walks to help inform citizens about the importance of creating healthy ecosystems.
One of the town’s value statements is: “We will preserve and protect our environment. We will be good stewards of our finite resources.” This program affirms that Cary is a community dedicated to maintaining a healthy environment—not only for its citizens, but also for its wildlife.
Bush says it is important to replace any natural habitat that is lost when development occurs. “When we do things like use rain barrels, [practice] composting, put in native plants, or hang bird feeders and add birdbaths, we encourage the wildlife to come back to the area. And that really helps all of us,” she explains.
As a bonus, this program brings communities together by connecting people to one another as well as to nature. Homeowner associations came together and supported Gardens for Wildlife by creating community gardens, as did several schools. “It was a community effort that was across the board,” Bush says.
What’s in store for Cary in 2018?
More growing, specifically local food crops. The Town of Cary will continue working with Good Hope Farm, a working farm located at the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Louis Stephens Drive. The farm is a partnership between the Town of Cary and a number of public and private organizations. Community support for the farm has been remarkable.
“It’s really about creating and preserving farmland, and preserving our heritage and our history,” Bush says. “The goal is to support historical preservation, support food access so people can see where their food comes from, and support conservation and community education. It’s a great innovative use of open space so people can learn about farming.”
Today, all of the farmers sell produce to local markets and restaurants. This year Good Hope Farm plans to begin a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) service and will also have a farm stand to sell produce directly to the public. Visitors and volunteers are welcome to come out and see for themselves what a special place it is. (For more information visit goodhopefarm.org.)
Although Cary continues to grow rapidly, it manages to retain that hometown feel. “Even though we are 160,000 people, we’re still a town,” Bush says. “We know our neighbors. We help our community. It’s an amazing place to work, live, play, and serve.”
Planning For All Generations
Few question that Apex is indeed The Peak of Good Living, particularly as residents continue to take the town’s motto to heart. In the November election, a $48 million parks bond to fund the development of parks and recreation amenities passed with a 76 percent approval rate.
Pleasant Park, one of the planned future parks, will include a multi-use sports facility near the intersection of 540 and old US Highway 1. Construction could begin as early as spring.
“The passing of this bond is an exciting thing for Apex,” says Shannon Flaherty, executive director of the Apex Chamber of Commerce. “From a business perspective, the expansion of athletic fields, such as baseball and soccer, at Pleasant Park will [position] Apex more in the market to be able to facilitate tournaments that other towns currently have. And when folks come from out of the community for these events, they bring their dollars to our community.”
Other bond projects include the completion of two Apex greenways—Beaver Creek and Middle Creek—and the expansion of the Community Center/Senior Center.
Flaherty says all of these projects benefit Apex residents. “Whether it’s the tournaments bringing in money to businesses or the senior center that will be exciting for our senior community, it’s all a good thing for Apex,” she says. “At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
Downtown Rising—Figuratively and Literally
It’s an exciting time to be living in Holly Springs. The town recently became North Carolina’s first Certified Entrepreneurial Community under the leadership of economic development director Irena Krstanovic. One of the goals of this program is to support people who are starting and growing businesses. Another goal is to develop events and activities that will bring Holly Springs residents together downtown.
As a result of this initiative, the Downtown Village District will experience rapid development in 2018. Work will begin on several projects that have been in the planning stages for more than a decade. Among them is the construction of more office and retail space, as well as the expansion of current businesses.
The town will also add a parking deck, streetscaping, and sidewalks. “By June or July, we’ll be going vertical with both projects at the same time. Come down and you will see the town rising right before you,” town manager Charles Simmons says, with audible enthusiasm and pride.
Simmons notes it isn’t all easy; Holly Springs faces the same challenges as other growing communities—managing growth, establishing long-range capital improvement plans, and continuing to invest in the town’s infrastructure. The biggest challenge?
“Transportation,” he answers quickly. “But, it’s one that the town is up to.” He explains that, in addition to planning for future infrastructure needs, Holly Springs will be looking at the feasibility of a transportation bond referendum
Morrisville on the Fast Track
Speaking of growth, have you visited Morrisville lately? Park West Village continues to be a shopper’s mecca with 100 acres of mixed-use development including retail, entertainment, offices, residential, and—perhaps best of all—a wide variety of dining choices. “Morrisville has rightfully been called a ‘foodie epicenter,’” says State Senator Jay Chaudhuri. “The Davis Drive/Chapel Hill Road corridor alone has outstanding Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern restaurants. I haven’t quite eaten my way through Morrisville because it seems like a new restaurant is popping up every week—and that’s a good thing.”
More exciting news involves the creation of the Morrisville Town Center, a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and park space that will be in the downtown district. Plans for the town center have been in the works since 2006, and—with the construction of a new Wake County Public Library slated to begin this year—they are finally coming to fruition.
With growth comes the challenge of transportation and traffic problems. But Chaudhuri is optimistic about the approval of the Wake County Transit Plan. “It will be a game changer,” he says. “Morrisville residents will be able to hop on a commuter rail and go to Cary and Raleigh.” And those commuter trains will be running both ways, sure to bring residents from other communities into the thriving Morrisville market.
Music, Arts, Craft Beer, and Dining: Fuquay-Varina Has it All!
Mary Willis watched as Fuquay-Varina transformed from a tobacco farm town to one of Wake County’s fastest-growing communities. The town’s population has nearly tripled since 2000, and is projected to top 33,000 by 2020. Willis, president and CEO of Fidelity Bank, which has been headquartered in Fuquay-Varina for more than 100 years, remembers moving here in the 1970s when the town’s restaurant choices were Hardee’s and Tastee-Freeze. How times have changed!
Today, downtown Fuquay-Varina is a vibrant space with many restaurants and four local breweries to choose among. The Follow Me To Fuquay-Varina (FM2FV) Concert Series brings families out for a variety of live music performances, and perhaps a dance or two in both spring and fall.
And Willis says downtown is about to get even better with the addition of the Fuquay-Varina Arts Center. The center, located on Vance Street, will be dedicated to the visual and performing arts and will include classrooms, a dance studio, an art gallery, and a theater with more than 300 seats.
Maureen Daly, director of the Fuquay-Varina Arts Center, says residents can expect an opening in late spring. The town is very excited to have the arts center, especially in its downtown area. “Not only will the center invigorate the economy, it will continue to bring people downtown to visit our local shops and participate in the small-town charm that is Fuquay-Varina,” she says.