Demolition of the Cary Towne Center shopping center begins

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Demolition of the Cary Towne Center began this week, more than a year after most of its retailers closed.

After more than a year of withering in development limbo, Cary Towne Center is finally collapsing.

Demolition of the 40-year-old complex began this week, about 13 months after most retailers in the mall closed.

The impending absence of the mall leaves some neighborhood residents ambivalent.

“Obviously the mall was no longer thriving,” Maryrose Melito Kemp, a Cary resident of more than 20 years, previously told the News & Observer. But, she said, “I’m so sad to see him go.”

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Demolition of the Cary Towne Center began this week, more than a year after most of its retailers closed. Scott Sharp

Leveling the 87-acre property will allow Cary’s Epic Games to build a new headquarters. The gaming titan behind Fortnite and Rocket League bought the mall and its surrounding land for $95 million in January 2021.

Epic’s current office space off Crossroads Boulevard can no longer accommodate the company’s expanding workforce. The company, valued at nearly $30 billion, is eagerly recruiting hundreds of new Triangle employees. It hopes to build up to 2.7 million square feet of office space on the Cary Towne Center property, plus 75,000 square feet of retail space and up to 200 hotel rooms.

Are malls becoming obsolete?

The Cary Towne Center, which housed major department stores Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears and Dillard in its heyday, joins hundreds of defunct malls that closed amid the 21st century “retail apocalypse”.

The advent of e-commerce has hit retailers in person and a global pandemic hastened their demise.

Fewer than 1,200 enclosed malls are still operating in the United States. Of 1,000 tracked by Green Street, a real estate analytics firm, about 750 have vacant “anchor boxes” where retail giants like Sears, Nordstrom and Macy’s once thrived.

A 2020 study by Coresight Research estimated that 25% of US malls would close in the next three to five years. Like many experts, Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, expects this trend to continue as internet shopping undermines traditional retail operations.

“The whole business model of a mall,” he told USA Today, “of getting as many people as possible and having them stay as long as possible, just fell apart.”

Lars Dolder is a business reporter at The News & Observer focusing on retail.