N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Rep. Jay Adams and Sen. Dean Proctor, who represent Hickory, were among several lawmakers and local government officials at the event.
The university announced last November that it purchased the former Corning Optical Communications headquarters off U.S. Highway 321 for a new university campus.
Appalachian State leaders have said they plan to have classes begin at the new site in fall 2023. The university is forming a task force with representatives from the city of Hickory to make decisions about what will be taught there.
Much will need to be done over the next 16 months to make that plan a reality. Tuesday’s tour of the cubicle-filled office building gave a preview of some of that work.
Appalachian State Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Nick Katers rattled off some items on the to-do list, including upgrades to electrical and plumbing systems, new carpets, paint and likely some asbestos removal.
Improving energy efficiency is also a key focus for the university as it works through the renovations.
“That gets to be a little pricey as we get going but it’s great in the long term,” Katers told Speaker Moore.
Appalachian State is planning for a space that will hold around 1,000 students at a time, Katers said. He said the university is waiting for more money from the state and should be ready to start work once they receive it.
The university purchased the property, which has a tax value listed at $5.9 million, for $1 million. Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts said the university would put $20 million into the building and the resulting enhancements would raise the property’s value to $90 million or more.
Katers said the university ended up paying about $4.40 per square foot for the 226,000-square-foot building when it would cost them as much as $400 per square foot to build a new building.
Moore highlighted the value the university got through the purchase while praising the educational benefit the new campus would bring.
“This has to be one of like the deals of the century,” Moore said. “So for the taxpayers wondering about use of tax dollars, this gets an A+ doing this. This is absolutely incredible.”
Adams spoke of the new campus as a game changer for Hickory that would help the city in its efforts to attract and retain younger workers.
“For something like 30 years, we’ve wondered in Hickory, how we could keep our young people. What kind of opportunities would there be for young people in Hickory?” Adams said. “And one of the things that was always brought up was, if we had a state-supported college in Hickory, that would be the silver bullet. So welcome to the silver bullet.”
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