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Wilson officials reassured residents that commemorative pavers in the Paul V. Berry Hickory Grove Park would not be demolished with BB&T’s plan to build a $35 million facility along Pine Street.
“As economic development impacts Paul V. Berry Hickory Grove Park in the coming year, the city will be exploring options for replacement of this recreation space. We look forward to sharing the possibilities that will continue the city’s commitment to open space and parks in our downtown area,” said Rebecca Agner, Wilson communications and marketing director. “We look forward to receiving input from the community at that time and we are excited about the future of downtown Wilson.”
J. Bowie Gray, the former owner of Wilson Hardware Co., was instrumental in the park’s development as part of a committee to honor the 150th anniversary of combining Toisnot Depot and Hickory Grove to create the town of Wilson.
“In 1999, the committee decided where they wanted the park to be, then we had to go through land acquisition, planning, fundraising, engineering the waterfall and all of that,” Gray said. “There was a lot of surprises and stuff that came up before it actually came to fruition.”
Funding was one of the struggles to the development, eventually garnering a $265,000 Community Development Block Grant, $79,234 in city funds, $75,000 from Paul V. Berry as well as the $30,000 proceeds from land on Forest Hills Road Berry donated to the city. Gray said about 150 commemorative pavers also were purchased for a brick path near the fountain. Those pavers elicited many online comments from residents about the BB&T announcement, but city officials said the Berry family was included in preliminary planning for the project.
“My father would not want to stop progress downtown, especially with BB&T. He was a big supporter of this community and had been in business here for almost 40 years. He loved Wilson,” said Vaughn Berry-Daniel. “As his children, we want that to continue. My brother and I are in business in Wilson and we were always taught to give back to the community. We love this town and we want to see this progress as well as the momentum continue downtown.”
When the new 95,000-square-foot BB&T building is complete, the company plans to demolish the iconic towers along Nash Street. The site will be traded with the city for the site of the Paul V. Berry Park, eventually creating parkland from the corner of Jackson Street to Pine Street with the lawn at the Wilson County Public Library.
“We realize we are losing a city park as a necessary piece of an important economic development announcement in Wilson,” said City Manager Grant Goings. “I hope the city’s longstanding commitment to parks is evident to the Wilson Community. BB&T shares this sentiment and future announcements will be made about future parks and recreation space in downtown in the coming months.”
Berry-Daniel said the existing park is gorgeous, but agreed it was not used as much as expected. Gray said he looks forward to the park created along Nash Street and how it can be utilized for a variety of events and activities.
“The city met with the Berry family prior to the announcement by BB&T and the parties reached a mutually agreed upon settlement concerning the naming rights,” Agner said. “The memorial/honorary bricks that were purchased in the park will be repurposed with plenty of notice and options provided to the families who purchased bricks.”