HICKORY – The city of Hickory announced a donation to improve 20-30 acres of waterfront property at Geitner-Rotary Park at the Hickory City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The donation is in memorial of Deidra “Dee” Lackey, who died in December 2011. It is estimated to be the single-largest donation in the history of the city.
The expansion of Geitner-Rotary Park is expected to be part of a larger project to create a waterfront park that stretches across US 321.
“This is a chance to create and enhance one section of the park system really quickly,” said Andrea Surratt, assistant city manager.
Ideas for the park include gardens, an event space, a fishing pier, trails and, perhaps, a small amphitheater. Robert Lackey Sr. said the costs of the project are estimated to be between $2 million and $5 million.
This project is part of the city’s Inspiring Spaces plan. The plan entails a long-term capital improvement strategy aimed at making the city more attractive to businesses, citizens and newcomers. Other proposals from the initiative include a linear park along Main Avenue and an urban greenway in the Ridgeview community.
“Hickory is known for these types of beautiful places that attract people to a place where the public can gather,” Surratt said of the waterfront project.
Councilwoman Sally Fox expressed gratitude to the family for their donation.
“I’m just very touched,” Fox said. “I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a beautiful place.”
Deidra Lackey was described as having “a passion for gardens and beautiful parks.” Robert Lackey said he had met his wife as a child and they were sweethearts.
“We started dating, whatever that is, in the first grade,” Lackey said. “It’s chasing somebody with a stick, I think.”
In other business:
--The city presented Lenoir-Rhyne University with a “Business. Well Crafted.” award.
University president Wayne Powell was present to accept it along with other officials. Powell said that this has been “the millennium of Lenoir-Rhyne.” The university offers more than 50 majors and expects to have 500 graduate students in the fall. “We have emerged as the premier liberal arts university in North Carolina this decade,” Powell said.
Powell said a large part of the rebirth has been because of the support from the city.
“Lenoir-Rhyne and Hickory grew up together,” Powell said. “It’s been 123 years now.”
Alan Jackson from the Business Development Committee, presented the award and said the university had a special impact on him and his family.
“I spent more time on this campus than I did on my own college campus growing up,” Jackson said.
The council then donned Lenoir-Rhyne baseball caps and posed for a photo.
After the meeting, Mayor Rudy Wright said that council members and staff will be meeting with the university to find better ways to implement Hickory’s position as a college town.
--The council voted to approve a Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Agreement for ZLoop Knitting Mill, LLC. The company plans to demolish the former Walton Knitting Mill building located at 838 14th Street NE.
Wright said that a vacant lot is more appealing than a dilapidated building.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is another Inspiring Space,” Wright said.
--The council unanimously approved a satellite annexation at 1076 Fox Chase Drive near Sandy Ford Road. Principal planner Cal Overby said that more annexations in the area are likely to occur.
“You’re probably looking at a domino effect of annexation due to failed septic systems in the area,” Overby said.
--Local businessman John Link took time to endorse the 2013 Carolina Cycle Challenge, which will be on Oct. 6. Proceeds from the event, formerly known as “Brett’s Ride,” go to fighting pediatric cancer. Hickory communication director Mandy Pitts said that the event has raised $1 million since its inception in 2004.
Link thanked the city for its support.
“In the future, this will be bigger than Hickory,” Link said. “People will come from all over.”