CARY – A special meeting to discuss the redevelopment of the former Maplewood school property had Cary residents and village trustees asking themselves what kind of village Cary should be.
Some residents said they enjoy the small-town, open-space feel in Cary, and worried that a proposal to bring what some called a high-density, multifamily housing development to the site, 422 W. Krenz Ave., wouldn’t fit.
More than 40 residents came to the meeting Tuesday, and most of those who spoke during public comment opposed the new concept, citing concerns with the density of the project, parking, traffic and construction. Three people in the audience said that they liked the concept.
“Change is always difficult. We’ve developed a culture in that area, and we don’t want to see that lost,” said Mike Boyce of Cary. “Our village was born on single-family ideas. I understand the tax issues and how much we need that ... but I don’t think anyone wants to see commercial in this residential area. ... I don’t want to see one more car going down my street because of this development.”
Developer Patrick Taylor of Barrington-based Central One LLC presented preliminary plans for the property, allowing the board to provide feedback on the concept ideas before development drawings are completed.
Cary School District 26 shuttered the school in 2010 because of declining enrollment. Built in 1929, the 42,000-square-foot facility was one of the district’s oldest. The school board approved a $2.5 million purchase agreement with Central One LLC for the property in July after putting it up to bid for the third time since the school had been vacant.
The 15-acre site sits close to Cary’s downtown and is surrounded by single-family residential homes. Many homeowners spoke out against Taylor’s concept, which includes multistory apartment complexes along the Metra railroad tracks, detached single-family condominiums and open park space.
Taylor said he was inspired to transform the property after seeing the nearby public transportation and opportunity for mixed-use development.
“The product I built for 30 to 50 years is antiquated,” he said. “People are looking for smaller homes, and smaller lots and are tired of maintaining. ... Ownership isn’t as popular as it was 20 to 30 years ago. Everybody wants to rent.”
But Cary residents voiced concern ranging from increased traffic on Cary-Algonquin Road, the effect on water retention ponds and the desire to keep open spaces for a playground and fields for athletic games.
Christy Wagner of Cary has lived in the Maplewood area for 30 years and asked for open space.
“Once those fields are dug up and cement poured, we have lost a local treasure,” she said. “Think how many times all of us have been to games in those fields. ... This is a very emotional issue for all of us in the Maplewood area.”
Although Taylor did not have an estimate yet to how many people would live in the space, residents worried about “high-density housing,” creating an overflow of traffic into the neighborhood streets and raising question over whether Briargate Elementary could intake more students.
“A lot of residents love that Cary is a small-town feeling and they worry that with hundreds of residents coming in, they will lose that small-town feel,” Trustee Christine Betz said.
Trustee Kimberly Covelli said she would like to see retail added into the space, such as businesses on the ground floor of apartments.
Trustee Jeffery Kraus said he would like to explore rehabbing the auditorium of the Maplewood school to be used as an anchor-point for the community to host performances and community events.
Taylor worked off the village’s comprehensive plan, approved in 2015, and said he would take all residents’ comments into consideration. He hopes to come back to the board with his concept plan within the next 30 days.