The City Walk, which will be developed along Main Avenue from Lenoir-Rhyne University through Downtown Hickory to 9th Street NW, will continue the growth of company headquarters and professional jobs in the City’s central business district. Businesses have already invested over $30 million in new entertainment, headquarters, and retail shops, along Main Avenue between Lenoir-Rhyne University and Downtown Hickory. Great local companies, like Moretz Enterprises, Hollar Mill, Lenoir Rhyne University, Transportation Insight, Cornerstone United, and Blue Bloodhound have already invested and added jobs. By building a City Walk that will allow employees to easily connect to the university, shops, services, and their offices, as well as being a great place for all residents to enjoy, the City feels it can continue to attract company headquarters, as well as service and professional jobs, to the central business district to create a place where young adults want to work, live, and play.
In a special meeting, held August 24, 2016, Hickory City Council voted unanimously to approve two design service contracts with Amec Foster Wheeler to design the City Walk and two gateways.
City Walk plans for the main multi-purpose pathway have been submitted for constructability review by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and are currently under review with Norfolk Southern Railroad (NSRR). The plans, once receiving final approval from NCDOT and a project agreement from NSRR, will go the Federal Highway Administration for authorization to bid the project. The goal is to have the project out to bid by the end of the year, with construction slated for the first quarter of 2019.
In preparation for City Walk construction, the City of Hickory has started working on relocating utilities and replacing waterlines along Main Avenue NE/NW.
In November 2018, City Council unanimously approved the plans recommended by the Bond Implementation Commission for renovating Union Square and enhancing the streetscapes in downtown to better coordinate with City Walk plans. The plans increase “dwell time” in downtown by creating spaces where visitors can comfortably enjoy solitary or group activities. Keeping with the recommendations from the City Walk Subcommittee and downtown stakeholders, the designs maintain the historic feel of the Square. They also modernize aesthetics and enhance the space with a distinguished promenade along Union Square storefronts, a central pathway bisecting two large lawn areas, and additional seating areas called garden rooms or parklets. The design includes new public restrooms and a multi-purpose shade structure on the east side of the Square. The primary stage for performances under the Sails remains intact.
The Union Square plans also include elevating the cannon on a multi-tiered structure, nicknamed Cannon Hill, which will serve as an interactive feature, as well as offer additional seating and a unique vantage point of the square. Additional elements of the plans entail increasing lighting and security, adding atmospheric music, and offering complimentary Wi-Fi for downtown visitors.