Kroger Marketplace to anchor shopping center at Illinois, Turnpike

Kroger Marketplace Site Plan

Kroger Marketplace Site Plan

Note: This story was last updated at 12:09 p.m.

A Kroger Marketplace store could be the primary tenant at a new $30 million shopping center on the northeast corner of the intersection of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue.

The new 113,000-square-foot store could open in the spring of 2014, according to a Thursday morning press release from the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

The announcement ends months of community speculation about what was being proposed at the busy intersection.

Construction on the 22-acre site could start early next year, possibly in February or March, said Rhodes Seeger, an agent with commercial real estate company Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga.

Two hotels will be demolished, but developers are trying to relocate as many of the existing homes as they can. Seeger said all of the roughly 60 homeowners in the area have agreed to sell their properties, and a Mexican restaurant and closed day care center are also under contract.

A site plan could be presented to the city by Monday, and the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission could consider a project rezoning on Sept. 28, the press release said.

Besides the Kroger Marketplace, the store will contain approximately 12,000 square feet of small shop space, and the site will allow four to five outparcels with unidentified tenants.

“This is exciting news for Oak Ridge,” said Chris Johnson, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s retail, commercial, and residential growth area. “As someone who has traveled to retail conventions to help recruit new retail into Oak Ridge, this is exactly the kind of retail project we’ve been hoping to see make a commitment to our community.”

The press release said the specific amount of outparcel space depends upon whether the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church chooses to sell its property at the intersection of Robertsville Road and Oak Ridge Turnpike, adjacent to the land already under contract. It its own press release, the church said it will vote at the end of September on whether to sell.

Kroger Marketplace Front View

Kroger Marketplace Front View

The chamber press release said the new Kroger store will provide the city with a “unique and interactive shopping experience, designed to be a convenient and inviting addition to the community.” There will be a bistro, a sushi bar, a larger health and beauty section, a broader selections of perishable and grocery items, and full-service meat and seafood departments.

The release said the store will also offer products not typical of a traditional Kroger store, including jewelry, bed and bath items, decorative goods, office and school supplies, furniture, toys, and seasonal items. Traditional Kroger services and amenities will also be available, such as in-store banking, Starbucks coffee, a drive-through pharmacy, and a fuel center.

Parker Hardy, president and chief executive officer of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, said Blanchard and Calhoun conducted an extensive search of other properties in the city, but they were either deemed unsuitable or were unavailable.

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said the current Kroger store on South Illinois Avenue could be “aggressively” marketed to retailers for subleasing.

City officials said the new store could help other nearby Oak Ridge shopping centers, including Grove Center and the Oak Ridge Mall.

The press release said no public support is expected for the new shopping center, which is expected to bring 250 new jobs to East Tennessee.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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  • Lorri

    I have been to the new Kroger Marketplace on Cedar Bluff – and was not totally blown away (not sure i really like the whole marketplace concept i think i prefer a more traditional grocery store layout – like the Kroger at Middlebrook & Cedar Bluff)… BUT i do think the Oak Ridge Kroger is in desperate need of a facelift/replacement, and i would love to see a new Kroger here!

  • Sam

    The really, really good news is that no public support (TIF or $10.5M) is expected. I had to read that three times. Can we get that in writting?? LOL

    • Onslow West

      Maybe you need to get it written in LARGE BLOCK LETTERS because (no LOL here) it appears your vision has faded. Otherwise, you would be able to see those red dots that appear under formations such as “writtings,” dots which are meant to call your attention to a misspelling or an unrecognized word.

    • J Ibanez

      Seriously! I did a double-take, too! Too many businesses want to start out with a handout, great to hear that this project won’t be doing that.

  • http://twitter.com/maremartell Mare Martell

    I understand the restructuring of a floundering city in order to provide jobs, conveniences, and the smell of progress and I believe it to be a good thing. However, why can’t the eyesore known as the Oak Ridge Mall be renovated to accommodate this vital improvement? When Kroger moves to the new location, what happens to the old one? Is it going to be left to fall into disrepair? Two abandoned buildings on two abandoned lots instead of taking and using what we already have (renovated) sounds like poor planning to me. Didn’t anyone else on the planning committee get the “WASTE NOT WANT NOT” lesson when they were growing up?

    • J Ibanez

      Yeah, but if I’m reading that map correctly, I don’t mind those OTHER eye sores (the motels) being removed either. That whole corner is already a waste and the strip mall that houses our current Kroger is pretty shabby,too. In the meantime, I do hear that there are plans to sell the mall and we’ll see what they do with it at that point.

    • Ellen Smith

      This proposal didn’t come from a local planning committee; it comes from a private business. Planning by a local community does not necessarily direct where development ends up happening. Private property owners in the United States have a lot of rights, and the private owners of many of Oak Ridge’s vacant commercial properties either want very high prices for their properties or have allowed deed restrictions to be placed on their property that prevent it from being used for certain types of business. A few weeks ago, I asked the developer why they were looking at this site, instead of the various vacant commercial properties on Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue. The developer says they looked at all of the available commercial property in the city, and the site they are proposing to use is the only one they could acquire that meets their needs. The City will have the authority to decide whether to rezone the site to allow this development to happen, but government doesn’t have the authority to tell the developer to buy some other site instead.

      As for the existing Kroger, there are several years left on the Kroger lease there, and to cut their costs, they say they are working hard to find another business to move in.

      • J Ibanez

        Considering the shabby state of the property in question, I’m hoping the City won’t give them too much hassle in rezoning. If they’re willing to revamp those seedy motels with their own money, I’m okay with them overlooking other existing commercial properties.

        • Ellen Smith

          Currently I predict that their rezoning request will sail through the approval process. (However, I haven’t seen their proposal yet!)

  • tammi

    I love the kroger marketplace and can’t wait till we have one in oak ridge ! I’m very excited !

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