An 84-year-old vacant hosiery mill in Hickory is undergoing a historical restoration that will turn the 83,000-square-foot factory building into a mixed-used complex that will house a restaurant, gym, anti-aging center and medical spa, massage therapy business, office space and possibly apartments.The old Moretz Mills building, at 74 Eighth St. S.E., will be the second vacant hosiery manufacturing building within a one-block area on Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard to be restored and redeveloped into a mixed-use complex. The 83-year-old Hollar Mill building, at 883 Highland Ave. S.E., opened in April and now houses a restaurant, a yogurt shop and event space. Owners had hoped to have a brewery in the building by now, but lease negotiations fell through with Skull Coast Brewing Co., and owners are talking with Boone Brewing Co. about leasing the space, according to Clay Neill, one of the owners of Hollar Mill. Boone Brewing Co. opened a brewery and restaurant, The Blowing Rock Ale House Restaurant and Brewery, in Blowing Rock in June.Both Moretz Mills and Hollar Mill are on the National Register of Historic Places. Owners of both buildings hope the renovations will spur owners of other empty manufacturing buildings in the area to renovate and repurpose their buildings. In 2008, The Granary – once an old Hickory Flour Mill building just north of Moretz and Hollar mills – was remolded into offices. “Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard is the gateway into Hickory from I-40,” said John Moretz, owner of the Moretz Mills building. “When you get to Tate Boulevard, you either go left into downtown Hickory or go straight 300 or 400 yards, and you have a historical restoration area with Hollar and Moretz mills. We hope others in the area will come along with us and restore their buildings.”The Moretz Mills building was built in stages, with core components being constructed in the in the late 1920s and 1930s, according to Moretz. Although it changed owners over the years, the building was always used to manufacture hosiery: Whisnant Hosiery Co. manufactured socks in the plant until it was acquired by Hanes Hosiery and then by Moretz Hosiery Mills in 1992. Moretz made socks until 2005 and used it for distribution for three years before shutting the doors in 2008.Because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, renovations have to meet historic preservation guidelines: The building can be restored and repaired but not changed, according to Moretz. The red brick building features high wood ceilings as well as the original hardwood floors and many steel-frame glass windows. In the part of the building where Moretz is considering constructing apartments, wood ceilings are 30 feet high. “We are very dedicated to properly following the historic restoration of the facility,” said Moretz, “It is very important to me and the industry I grew up in to have this facility restored.” Three generations of Moretz’s family worked for Moretz Mills hosiery before the company was sold to Gildan Activewear Inc. in 2011. Moretz’s father, C. Hugh Moretz, founded Moretz Mills in Newton in 1946; and John Moretz and his two children worked at the hosiery business. Moretz acquired Gold Toe in 2006 and the company became Gold Toe Moretz. Moretz Mills is scheduled to open by July or August of next year, said Moretz, who already has secured commitments for 60 percent of the space. A casual dining restaurant, Moonshine & Grits, will occupy about 8,100 square feet. The restaurant will serve organic foods at lunch and dinner as well as legal moonshines, beers from local microbreweries and wine, he said. A Body Tech gym has committed to 15,273 square feet. Vitality Anti-Aging Center and Medical Spa of Hickory will lease 5,102 square feet and DeMille Enterprises, a local massage and acupuncture business, will lease 800 square feet, Moretz said. Moretz Marketing also will have office space in the building.The mill will house an office complex, with 20 office spaces as well as a conference room, kitchenette and causal lounge area that can used by all the businesses leasing the offices. The possibility of building apartments on the second floor of the building is being reviewed, Moretz said.“This office space concept offers common amenities to independent business owners such as lawyers, CPAs, insurance brokerages and others that need office space,” Moretz said.Restoring and repurposing the old factory building will cost more than $8 million, although the historic building is eligible for state and federal tax credits that Moretz says makes the restoration feasible. The project also has received a $30,000 vacant building grant from the city of Hickory and is eligible for funding from federal “brownfield” grant money the city received to conduct environmental assessments and for redevelopment planning for industrial sites that might be polluted. The city is conducting the required environmental assessments of the property with that funding, according to Brian Frazier, Hickory planning and development director.Both Moretz and the owners of Hollar Mill say the area is a prime location for a variety of businesses because of the improvements that were made to Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard a couple of years ago and the area’s proximity to Lenoir-Rhyne College .Moretz said the businesses that are already committed to Moretz Mills will draw hundreds of people.“With traffic from the big fitness center and Vitality and the restaurant, you will have hundreds, if not approaching thousands, of people coming in and out of that building,” he said. “Although it isn’t our main purpose for the building, the restaurant with organic food and the gym and Vitality will together be like a health and wellness center.”
Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2013
Hickory’s Moretz Mills building gets new life
Charlene H. Carpenter is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Charlene? Email her at email@example.com
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