Originally planned in 1972, the mall was first proposed as the adjacent Cary Village Mall and Cary Village Square projects and then ultimately as a $25 million Village Center by local developers Seby Jones (who built Crabtree Valley Mall and J.W. York (who build Cameron Village). Village Center was to be a 78-acre (316,000 m2), 75 store project including 3 office buildings as well as a (never built) motel. The request to rezone the area to allow construction of the mall drew much controversy from nearby residents calling themselves "Citizens for the Better Direction of Cary" who worried about increased traffic as well as the property's proximity to Cary High School, Henry Adams School and East Cary School. The group hired an attorney and pressured the town council to closely monitor the development causing York to complain that everything had to be approved "10 times". Cary Village Mall opened on February 21, 1979, with 325,000 square feet (30,200 m2) of retail space anchored by Ivey's (now Dillard's) and Hudson Belk (now Belk) as well as outbuildings occupied by Big Star Markets (now Harris Teeter).
In 1991, the mall was renamed Cary Towne Center and expanded to 1.1. million square feet by then owners Richard E. Jacobs group in reaction to the proposed Crossroads Plaza "mega-mall" being planned only a mile away. A food court was added along with three new anchors: Thalhimers (now Macy's),JC Penney, and Sears, and the mall assumed its new moniker . Dillard's was added a year later, replacing the original Ivey's store which had been a tenant since 1979. Thalhimer's became Hecht's in 1992, which became Macy's in 2006.