Oak Ridge mall owner focuses on one buyer, no sale date announced

Oak Ridge City Center

The Oak Ridge City Center, pictured at center above, is for sale and the owners say they are working with potential buyers, although no sale date has been set.

Local officials have announced a few different timelines and deadlines for the redevelopment of the Oak Ridge Mall since April, but the company that owns the property last week declined to set a specific sale deadline.

“We are working diligently with buyers, and there will be an announcement forthcoming,” said Steve Arnsdorff, chief manager of Oak Ridge City Center LLC, which owns the mall.

Mall owners are focused on one buyer, Arnsdorff said during an interview last week.

During an Oak Ridge City Council retreat Monday, City Manager Mark Watson said the deadline to “do something or get a buyer” is probably Sept. 1. There could be some other developments after that, Watson said, but he did not elaborate.

Watson told Council members that municipal officials hadn’t received any updates on the mall project in three weeks.

“There is no new change,” Watson said. “Last we heard, they were talking to one prospect, but we have not heard anything from that.”

Former City Council member Ray Evans, a consultant to Watson on the mall and other projects, said the city is not involved in the negotiations to sell the mall, but the owners do want to know the community’s vision for the property. Asked to describe that vision, Evans said municipal officials want a true town center, a mixed-use development that could include residential, retail, and commercial properties.

Every viable community has a “heart and soul,” Evans said during an interview last week.

“This is our opportunity,” he said.

He cited the redevelopment of the Hill Center in the Green Hills area of Nashville as an example of what could be done. That redevelopment includes a mix of office and residential space, outdoor cafes, tree-lined streets, and on-street parking, Evans said.

Evans said municipal officials have had contact with five to six potential mall buyers.

In June, Watson said potential developers are likely to ask for public money to help pay for infrastructure improvements ranging from rerouted roadways and new traffic lights to building upgrades and property demolition.

There could initially be some $10 million worth of public improvements, with more possible later, Watson said.

Evans said the amount of city help will likely depend upon the degree to which the mall redevelopment matches the city’s vision.

Local officials have reported that the mostly empty 60-acre mall, which has two anchor stores remaining, is for sale for $10.5 million.

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  • Susie Williams Taylor

    Why is there such “secrecy” on potential buyers? Also, is the “mall” in such bad shape, structurally that some of it would “have” to be demolished?

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

      Susie, I think some degree of confidentiality is fairly common in certain phases of business deals. In this case, it’s one private entity negotiating with other private entities. I can’t comment on the shape of the mall. However, local economic development leaders have said for quite some time that enclosed malls fell out of favor years ago, and the mall owners have previously proposed demolishing the space between the anchor stores at the Oak Ridge mall.

      • Tj

        The problem is the mall owner wants the city to spend a crap load of money on roads, lights, utilities, traffic lights, etc.

  • Carole

    I echo Ms Taylor’s questions. It has amazed me why any developer/owner would want to be seemingly responsible for the city dying on the vine as it were for lack of commerce.

  • Sam

    No developer is going to pay the outrageous price Arnsdorf is asking but just in case, hold onto your wallets. The city is just begging to be taken to the cleaners. Some things never change.

  • TheNextRealPresident

    The citizens of Oak Ridge do not need to spend one cent on helping businesses make more profit. If the business is not self sufficient, we don’t need it. BTW, elect me in November.

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