Mall project clears critical hurdle Monday

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering


Tim Sittema

Tim Sittema

Council, IDB approve TIF extension, grant, roadway work

The proposed redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall cleared a critical hurdle on Monday when city officials agreed to extend a property tax agreement for the 59-acre project, authorize $2 million in roadway and other infrastructure work, and offer a $500,000 grant if some federal funding is not approved.

Officials described the proposed redevelopment, named Main Street Oak Ridge, as an $80 million project that could fill a “hole in the heart” of Oak Ridge, bring new retail life to the city’s downtown, and build a lasting legacy.

Monday’s moves were meant to reduce the risk for four local lenders that could combine to offer $13 million in loans to part of the redevelopment under a tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement. That incentive would use new property tax revenues generated at the mall site and 120 surrounding acres included in the TIF area to repay those loans. Officials said the loans could be repaid in 18 years, according to financial models.

David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw

But in two separate special meetings on Monday, the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board and Oak Ridge City Council agreed to extend the TIF term from 20 years to 30. That extra 10 years is meant to act as a “shock absorber” and help make sure that the banks are repaid if there is a “glitch” in the project that would push the repayment past the previously approved 20-year term, officials said.

“This is not a ‘home run’ project for us as financial institutions,” said David R. Bradshaw, Oak Ridge president of CapitalMark Bank and Trust, one of the financial institutions that could participate. But, he added, “It is the right thing to do for the community.” [Read more...]


IDB, Council to consider longer tax agreement, road improvements for mall project

Main Street Oak Ridge Site Plan without Tenants

A Main Street Oak Ridge site plan from Tuesday, without tenants shown. (Submitted image)


Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering

In two special meetings today, local officials will consider adding another 10 years to a tax incentive agreement for the long-awaited redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall, and they will also consider authorizing improvements to public infrastructure, including the rebuilding of three private roads: Main Street East, Main Street West, and Wilson Street.

The tax incentive is known as tax increment financing, or TIF. It would use new property tax revenues generated at the mall site, which will be renamed Main Street Oak Ridge, to help pay for development costs.

A 20-year, $13 million TIF and economic impact plan were approved by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, City Council, and Anderson County Commission in November, and by Tennessee officials in January.

But the IDB and City Council will now consider extending the TIF term to 30 years. The extension would also have to be approved by the Anderson County Commission and Tennessee officials. [Read more...]

Chamber has two candidate forums this week

Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce is pictured above.

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce has two Election Selection candidate forums this week.

The first is Tuesday morning, September 30, and it will feature the 10 candidates for Oak Ridge City Council. The second is Thursday morning, October 2, and it will feature the eight candidates for Oak Ridge Board of Education.

The forums have been organized by the Chamber’s Pro-Growth Advocacy Committee. They are open to the public.

Doors to both forums open at 7 a.m. There will be 30 minutes of meet-and-greet time among the candidates, Chamber members, supporters, community members, and attendees, a press release said. [Read more...]

Saturday: Household hazardous waste drop-off, prescription drug take-back

There is a prescription drug take-back in Oak Ridge through 2 p.m. today (Saturday, September 27). There is also a collection of household hazardous waste, and it also ends at 2 p.m.

The prescription drug take-back is at the Oak Ridge Police Department at 200 South Tulane Avenue. The ORPD is doing this in collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Anderson County.

“The Oak Ridge Police Department will give the public the opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs,” a press release said. “The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.” [Read more...]

IDB has special meeting on Oak Ridge mall on Monday

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering


Mark Watson

Mark Watson

A city board on Monday will consider extending the tax agreement for the redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall from 20 years to 30.

The Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board will consider the change to the tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement during a special meeting Monday afternoon.

It’s one of a series of resolutions expected to be considered by the IDB and Oak Ridge City Council during special-called meetings on Monday, September 29. [Read more...]

Former Council member Smith running for City Council

Ellen Smith

Ellen Smith

Ellen Smith, who served on Oak Ridge City Council from 2007 to 2012, has announced that she is a candidate for City Council in the November 4 election.

Smith is a 33-year resident of Oak Ridge who describes herself as “an Oak Ridger by choice.” As newcomers to East Tennessee in 1981, she and her husband Rich Norby looked around the area and then chose to buy in Oak Ridge and make this city their home, a press release said.

Both have made their careers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where Ellen is a research staff scientist in the Environmental Sciences Division and Rich is a corporate fellow in the Environmental Sciences Division and Climate Change Science Institute. Their adult son Karl was born here and attended school at Linden Elementary School, Robertsville Middle School, and Oak Ridge High School.

Smith said she decided to run for City Council this year after many citizens from diverse sectors of the city urged her to do so, the press release said. People tell her they value her knowledge of Oak Ridge, its history, and city government; her thoughtful analysis of issues and proposed solutions; and her responsiveness to citizens who contacted her with concerns, the release said. Smith said she is committed to working for the community and all of its citizens. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge mall to have new name, banks considering financing

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering


Tim Sittema

Tim Sittema

The redeveloped Oak Ridge mall will have a new name, and local banks and credit unions are considering helping with project financing, executives said Tuesday.

The redeveloped mixed-use property will be known as Main Street—Oak Ridge, said Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina development firm that has been working with the city of Oak Ridge to redevelop the site, including through significant demolition and new construction. The name was chosen after long consideration of a new brand identity for the development, including involvement by Oak Ridge High School students.

“Most everyone we talked to in Oak Ridge was positive about creating a downtown destination for the community—something that says this place is the heart of the city,” said Crosland Southeast partner Tim Sittema. “The site already has Main Street running through it; so Main Street—Oak Ridge is the obvious choice.”

David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw

Construction is expected to begin in early 2015, with an opening anticipated in the third quarter of 2016, based upon completion of the financial arrangements.

In a press release, Crosland Southeast said a consortium of local financial institutions, led by CapitalMark Bank and Trust of Oak Ridge, is considering substantial involvement in the financing of the redevelopment “due to the transformative nature of this project in the city core.”

“In addition to our bank, ORNL Federal Credit Union and others have held discussions together about providing lending support to the mall project,” said David Bradshaw, executive vice president of CapitalMark. “Although details have not been finalized and commitments have not yet been made, there is very strong interest among our local banks and credit unions to be engaged in this important long-term investment in the Oak Ridge community.” [Read more...]

PTA-PTO Council has City Council, school board candidate forums

David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw

The Oak Ridge parent-teacher associations and parent-teacher organizations have scheduled two candidate forums, which will focus on questions related to education.

The Oak Ridge Board of Education candidate forum will be held on Wednesday, October 1. The City Council candidate forum will be held on Wednesday, October 8.

Both forums will be held at the Oak Ridge High School Amphitheater from 6 to 7:30 p.m. In each case, there will be a candidate meet and greet at 5:30 pm, and visitors will also have a chance to directly 
speak with candidates from 7:30 to 8 p.m., a press release said.

For more information, contact moderator David Bradshaw at [email protected].

Chamber forms Progress PAC, two Council members seek legal action

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m.

Two Oak Ridge City Council members have requested a special meeting this week to consider litigation against the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, seeking to prevent the business organization from conducting political activities on public property, including through a new political action committee.

The special meeting, which would be open to the public, has been requested by Oak Ridge City Council members Trina Baughn and Anne Garcia Garland. Baughn said she requested the meeting to “vote upon initiating litigation against the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce so that the city may seek either injunctive relief and/or a temporary restraining order with regards to their conducting political activities on public property.”

Stephen Whitson

Stephen Whitson

On Friday, the Chamber announced it had formed a political action committee named the Progress PAC. The multi-candidate PAC will support candidates in the November elections for Oak Ridge Board of Education and City Council, a press release said.

Stephen Whitson of Oak Ridge has been elected Progress PAC chair, and David Bradshaw, also of Oak Ridge, has been named treasurer. Both are past chairs of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

In the press release, Whitson said the Progress PAC will only consider supporting candidates who respond to an issue-based written questionnaire and participate in an interview with Progress PAC members. [Read more...]

County mayor to host community forum on broadband Internet access

Anderson County Terry Frank and Steve Heatherly

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, left, and Steve Heatherly, co-chairman of the Rural 6 organization’s Community/Government Relations Council, look over a map of Anderson County. (Photo courtesy Anderson County Government)


Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank will host a community meeting to organize efforts to bring broadband Internet access to unserved areas in Anderson County.

The community meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 23, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Community Room at the Norris Community Building, located at 20 Chestnut Drive.

“As mayor, I want to continue to work on efforts to see people in our communities have access to the Internet,” Frank said in a press release. “Expanding access will expand educational opportunities and resources, will help attract more families to choose Anderson County as a place to live, and will increase our economic opportunities. [Read more...]

League, AAUW have registration events on Voter Registration Day

The League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge and the American Association of University Women, Oak Ridge Branch, will host National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 23.

“This major registration event will help people to register to vote or update their voter registration if they have moved or changed names,” a press release said.

The registration will be held at Oak Ridge High School, Clinton High School, and Anderson County High School during lunch periods. Roane State Community College registration will be held on both September 23 and 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration at this site will be open to the public.

“Voter registration is the front door to voting in U.S. elections,” the press release said. “Research has shown that the majority of eligible voters who register, turn out to vote. Oak Ridgers and Tennesseans have much at stake this year with our many community elections and with the proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution.” [Read more...]

AC Election Commission: 23 registration drives on Voter Registration Day

Vote Logo

The Anderson County Election Commission will have 23 voter registration drives at 23 locations on Tuesday, September 23, as part of National Voter Registration Day. The goal is to register as many new voters as possible within a 23-hour period.

“It is our goal to provide every Anderson County resident with the opportunity to register to vote,” an Election Commission press release said. “We will be located in various parts of the county in schools, restaurants, and businesses, giving Anderson County residents the opportunity to be a part of the democratic process!” [Read more...]