Cary, N.C. — If you haven't been to Cary in a while, you might think Waverly Place is still fairly deserted.
Just two years ago, there were only three stores in the shopping center, which sits at the intersection of Kildaire Farm and Tryon roads.
"We were sort of the lone wolf out here for a while," said Renee Spell, who co-owns Elegant Stitches.
But that's hardly the case now.
Seventy percent of the complex – nearly 2 dozen shops and stores – are now under lease as part of a revitalization project in the area.
Since it opened in 1988, the Cary shopping center changed very little until 2007.
That's when a Durham developer planned to tear the shops down and rebuild. The company stopped renewing leases, but the economy tanked, and financing wasn't available.
New developers took over in 2008, remodeled and reopened last year.
An improved economy, a new look and a new concept of boutique shops are helping bring in businesses like Whisk, an upscale kitchen supply store.
"Waverly Place has transformed in a way that I have never seen another place transform," Whisk owner Dan Saklad said. "We feel like this is going to be a successful business and that Cary is the right place to be and that Waverly Place is the right place for us to be."
And it's filling up fast. Developers just announced that a new high-end dine-in theater will open next year and say more restaurants are on the way.
The new stores are breathing life into the ones that stayed through the transformation – the ones that relied on a dedicated clientele to keep them in business.
"We have people pop in and go 'We didn't know you were here,'" Spell said, "which is odd to me because we've been here, but they are finding us."
With nearly 90 percent of land in Cary already developed, town leaders say redevelopment will be the trend for the business future.
Howard Johnson, president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, says redevelopment is happening all over Cary with new businesses moving into old spaces.
He credits a low unemployment rate and jobs coming to the area.
"It is a confidence level, and people seem to be in a better mood, and that translates in retails," Johnson said.
Elsewhere in the town, a Bass Pro Shops is planned for North Harrison Avenue. Carolina Pottery will open in the old Kmart at the corner of Kildaire Farm and Maynard roads.
"I think it's just the start of what we're going to see," Johnson said. "When you make announcements, like MetLife coming to Cary with 1,000 jobs-plus, it just creates this energy that we are very fortunate to be in this market."