Note: This story was last updated at 12:15 p.m.
Demolition of the former Oak Ridge Mall began Tuesday. Crews demolished a significant part of the former Sears store Tuesday morning.
The demolition is expected to include the enclosed space between Belk and JCPenney, the two remaining anchors at the former mall.
Plans call for replacing the former mall with Main Street Oak Ridge, a 58-acre, $75 million mixed-use development that could include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and a hotel. Belk and JCPenney are part of Main Street Oak Ridge, and they remain open during demolition of the mall’s enclosed spaces and construction of new stores.
It’s a big day for Oak Ridge, at least in terms of economic development. Some residents have said they will continue to remain skeptical about the project until they see some actual demolition or construction work. Parker Hardy, president of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, has said Main Street Oak Ridge is now the largest multi-tenant commercial retail project in the city. Many residents have waited for years for the property to be redeveloped. The mall has been mostly empty for close to a decade.
Demolition could last three months, and the construction of two new stores, T.J. Maxx and Dick’s Sporting Goods, could start where the former Sears building is in October, said Neil Wilson, principal of RealtyLink, the Greenville, South Carolina, company that is redeveloping the property.
Wilson has said new stores could open in the spring of 2017.
There was a ceremonial groundbreaking for Main Street Oak Ridge on Wednesday, July 20. About 300 people attended.
RealtyLink bought the mall property from Oak Ridge City Center LLC on June 30 for $6.3 million. The new owner is TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC, a company set up by RealtyLink.
Besides Dick’s and T.J. Maxx, other new stores that have been announced as part of the 600,000-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment are Electronic Express, Maurice’s, PetSmart, Rack Room, Rue 21, and Ulta.
Main Street Oak Ridge is expected to create 700-900 jobs, and conservative estimates predict new local sales tax revenues of about $1.5 million per year, Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said during the groundbreaking last week. Anderson County Commission Chair Steve Emert said Main Street Oak Ridge could generate another $600,000 for county schools each year.
“Going forward, these new tax dollars will be absolutely vital in funding our schools, public safety, and road and infrastructure improvements,” Gooch said. “The most successful chapter of history for our remarkable city is yet to be written.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Thank you to reader Kevin Rice for his tip about the Tuesday morning demolition work.
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