A rejuvenation of the city’s original town center got a major boost Friday when Gov. Bill Haslam announced a $800,000 grant for parking lot and sidewalk construction in Jackson Square, as well as bicycle racks and benches.
“The Jackson Square project will further Oak Ridge’s efforts to enhance its historic downtown area and provide increased mobility and improved access to small businesses and cultural activities,” Haslam said.
The governor presented a $798,687 symbolic check to Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan during a Friday morning ceremony.
The grant, which requires a 20 percent city match, is for the first phase of what is officially called the Jackson Square Townsite Reconfiguration Project.
“We’re bringing the town center back .. and bringing it to the future in a different format,” Beehan said.
The project includes major changes to the parking lot on Broadway Avenue, a state press release said. It will transform parts of the square “into an attractive, landscaped plaza and parking area.”
Some sidewalks will be repaired, and new ones will be built. The project will also add trees and pedestrian lighting.
The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Haslam said the enhancement grant awarded to Oak Ridge is one of 15 given across the state. The grants were competitive, with 10 applications for each one awarded.
The governor cited the historical significance of Jackson Square, the city’s original commercial center when Oak Ridge was built to enrich uranium for the Manhattan Project during World War II.
Local officials said new restaurants and businesses have moved into the square, and a new bank is under construction.