Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NC portraits: Downtown Hickory


Almost a decade ago, the city of Hickory embarked on a plan to reinvigorate its downtown by investing $98 million in transformative projects to spur economic growth, attract residents and businesses and create a better quality of life. Part of that money went to the Hickory Trail, a 10-mile multimodal urban trail that connects walkers and bicyclists to some of Hickory’s assets – Lake Hickory, the renovated downtown, educational centers, sports and entertainment venues and the regional airport. It includes a bridge across U.S. 321.

Private investments downtown include One North Center, a $19 million mixed-use development that opened in 2021 along the City Walk portion of the trail. Additional mixed-use developments have also been announced.

This fall, Appalachian State University opened its satellite campus in a 225,000-square-feet, five-story building that had been vacant for about four years. The App State building is about a five-minute drive from downtown. The city already had private Lenoir-Rhyne University and Catawba Valley Community College.

The public and private investments downtown have resulted in urban renewal for the Piedmont city of about 44,000 residents with a historical manufacturing base in furniture, hosiery and textiles.

Downtown Hickory. Well Crafted.

As the Central Business District, Downtown Hickory is filled with a variety of unique retail shops, restaurants, corporate headquarters, professional offices, and entertainment venues, all in a park-like setting in the heart of Hickory.

In November 2018, City Council unanimously approved the renovation of  Union Square in Downtown Hickory, while additionally enhancing streetscapes to complement the plans for the new Hickory Trail.

The Hickory Trail (, a 10-mile multimodal urban trail system connecting destinations across the city, is the result of a now $98 million investment to generate economic development and attract industry.

The Downtown makeover increased “dwell time” by creating spaces where visitors can
comfortably enjoy solitary or group activities. The Square maintained its historic feel while modernizing aesthetics. A new multi-purpose shade structure, now called the
CommScope Stage, was added. The Sails on the Square Stage remained intact and continues to host a variety of entertainment.

An elevated cannon on a multi-tiered structure, nicknamed Cannon Hill, serves as an interactive feature, as well as offers additional seating and a unique vantage point of the Square. Increased lighting and security, atmospheric music, and complimentary Wi-Fi for Downtown visitors were all added during the renovation. 

A ribbon cutting was held on September 23, 2019, to celebrate the completion of the Union
Square renovations.

In addition to the newly renovated Square, Downtown Hickory is home to Lowes Foods City Park with fun, interactive features and a splash pad area. New Downtown living, including shops, restaurants, and breweries have opened and continued to be built, offering new amenities for those who seek an active Downtown lifestyle.

On March 15, 2022, the Hickory Downtown Social District was established to allow residents to enjoy alcoholic beverages in its newly revitalized downtown area. Hickory was one of the first in the state to adopt a Social District. This is a benefit to downtown establishments and enhances any event that is held in that area. The Sails Original Music Series is one of those events that brings people from all over to enjoy downtown Hickory and the renovated Union Square.


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