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Cary considers an arts district

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A plan by Cary's Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources department calls for a set of facilities--some new, some in historic buildings--and an art park to make up a downtown arts district.

The old Cary Elementary School, would become a center for visual arts and education, with galleries, studios, classrooms and 300- to 400-seat performing space, costing about $11 million. A $2 million digital media center could be located in town personnel offices near the library. The historic Walter Rood House would be moved and turned into a welcome center.

Facility plans are based on a study of the needs of the region's arts groups by the consulting firm Pfeiffer Partners. They call for a 1,100- to 1,200-seat performance hall on Academy Street that would "fill a gap" in the region, according to department director Mary Henderson. A park is already in the town center plan; the arts district plan adds public art, a promenade, a small ampitheater and a parking deck for an estimated $10 million.

"We want to establish a vibrant and lively downtown area," Henderson says.

The Cary Community Foundation, a booster group, hopes to raise the estimated $30 million for the performing arts center through donations from the town's well heeled residents.

Still very much in the draft stage, an update of the plan will be released in mid-January for the Town Council to consider. For more, see www.townofcary.org/depts/prdept/ parks/civicculturalarts.htm.

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