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.