City board to reconsider repair, demolition orders for Tyrone Road building

Wender Building

The deadline for the demolition of a commercial building that once housed The Oak Ridger newspaper on Tyrone Road near Jackson Square expires Thursday, and after a five-month postponement, a city board will reconsider a repair or demolition order for the building that day. Under plans announced in May, the Magic Wok restaurant, which is separate from the building, would remain, as would a small northwestern portion of the building.

 

The deadline for the demolition of a commercial building that was once home to The Oak Ridger newspaper and other businesses on Tyler and East Tyrone roads expires Thursday, November 13, and a city board could reconsider a repair or demolition order that day.

The partially occupied commercial structure has been declared unfit for human occupation or use because of code violations, the city staff said.

The Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals previously tabled the repair or demolition order for five months to allow for partial demolition in preparation for the construction of the remaining building. The demolition deadline expires Thursday, and permit applications are to be submitted to the city by December.

The potential demolition and repair orders to be considered Thursday would not apply to the separate manufactured structure that now houses the popular Magic Wok restaurant. [Read more…]

2014 Election: Interest in mayor position, mall redevelopment, better ties with BOE

Oak Ridge City Council Candidate Forum

Nine of the 10 Oak Ridge City Council candidates are pictured above. From right, they are Kelly Callison, Rick Chinn, incumbent Anne Garcia Garland, Warren Gooch, Gary Love, incumbent David Mosby, Pedro Otaduy, former Council member Ellen Smith, and Eric Tobler. Not pictured is Aditya “Doc” Savara.

 

A majority of the Oak Ridge City Council candidates said they would consider running for mayor or vice mayor if elected on Tuesday, and almost all supported the incentives recommended for the proposed redevelopers of the former Oak Ridge Mall.

The candidates were mixed on whether to bring back red-light cameras, and most seemed to think the city’s property tax rate is about right, in light of current budget needs.

Asked to grade the current Council as leaders, the candidates handed out grades ranging from “A” to “F.”

In a series of recent forums, the candidates generally advocated for better communication between the City Council and Oak Ridge Board of Education and, for the most part, seemed to be in favor of taking over Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge, although their approvals would hinge on factors such as cost and property restrictions.

There are 10 candidates running for four seats on the seven-member Council in Tuesday’s election. Two of the incumbents—Anne Garcia Garland and David Mosby—are seeking re-election—and two others—Mayor Tom Beehan and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller—are not.

Many consider it a critical election, with a business boom under way and major projects on the horizon, including the proposed redevelopment of the mall and the planned $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 National Security Complex.

The new Council is expected to elect a new mayor and mayor pro tem (like a vice mayor) during its next meeting after Tuesday’s election.

Here is a look at some of what the candidates said during the recent forums. [Read more…]

Council approves $1 million contract for Jackson Square parking lot project

Jackson Square Plaza Improvements Map

Note: This story was updated at 11:35 a.m. Oct. 29.

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday awarded a $1 million contract for a project funded with help from a state grant to rebuild the Jackson Square parking lot area.

The contract was awarded to Rich Construction Inc. of Lenoir City. Oak Ridge officials will have a pre-construction conference in 10 days, and they are hopeful that work will start in late November, City Manager Mark Watson said.

He said the project could take 180 days, or about six months. That means it would be done before the Lavender Festival in 2015.

The work will include a landscaped pedestrian plaza with parking, an interactive fountain, stone pavers, curbing, asphalt paving, utilities, benches, sidewalks, and upgrades under the American with Disabilities Act. There will a slight increase in the number of parking spaces. [Read more…]

Alexander Inn, Family Pride to receive historic preservation award

Guest House Senior Living Concept

Artist concept of the Guest House/Alexander Inn Senior Living Center. (Images courtesy ORHPA)

The company converting a historic two-story hotel in Jackson Square into an assisted living center will receive a historic preservation award on Thursday. The award presentation will be held at the front door of the Guest House/Alexander Inn at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

“When Rick Dover and Family Pride acquired the property in May 2013, it was in total disrepair,” a press release said. “A $6 million investment will restore this beloved icon to its former glory.”

“We’re going to faithfully restore this building to its original look, from the soda-fountain bar in the lobby to the beautiful wide porch out front,” Dover said.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is included as part of the proposed new Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge. It’s been removed from an annual list of endangered places in East Tennessee published by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance.

Top military leaders and scientists once stayed at the Alexander Inn. The renovation by Family Pride started in July 2013, the culmination of a years-long preservation effort. [Read more…]

Food, music at Taste of Oak Ridge to benefit Free Medical Clinic

Taste of Oak Ridge

 

The format will be the same, but this year’s Taste of Oak Ridge will be held at the new Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church on Oak Ridge Turnpike—instead of in Jackson Square. It was moved because organizers weren’t sure when construction work might start on a revitalization project at Jackson Square.

Taste of Oak Ridge features food from Oak Ridge restaurants and performances by local musicians.

The sixth annual festival, scheduled from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, will raise money to benefit the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge. The Free Medical Clinic provides free medical care to residents of Anderson, Roane, and Morgan counties who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay for care.

Area restaurants will showcase some of their finest food in small portions. The price range for the “tastes” from each vendor will be $1 to $4 per item. Tickets will be available for purchase at entrances to the event. Attendees can buy as many tickets as they want for $1 each. In addition, beer and wine will be available to buy.

This year’s Taste of Oak Ridge will be held in the parking lot of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church at its new address at 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike, north of the Joe L. Evins Federal Building. [Read more…]

Snappy Tomato Pizza closing Friday

Snappy Tomato Pizza

After almost four years in Oak Ridge, Snappy Tomato Pizza in central Oak Ridge is closing Friday.

 

After almost four years in Oak Ridge, Snappy Tomato Pizza will close Friday, the owners said Thursday.

“We have really tried to hang on; however, things appear to continue to go downhill for us both financially and personally,” franchise owners Frances Gross and her daughters Misty Gross Robbins and Cindi Robbins said in a message to supporters and the Oak Ridge community. “Unfortunately, the sales have not been what we need to keep the business going while the new and upcoming retail centers continue to draw business toward the other end of town.”

The family said they have struggled during the past two years grieving the loss of their son and brother Robert Gross Jr., who was also a co-owner but died in August 2012, and battling with cancer surgery and extensive radiation treatments for husband and father Robert Gross Sr.

Now, they’re facing cancer again, only with a more radical surgery, the family said. In a telephone interview Thursday morning, Frances Gross said the last year has taken a toll on the family, and they’ve struggled to stay busy as new restaurants have opened across town, drawing customers away. [Read more…]

Letter: Rice wants to cut taxes, recruit high-tech jobs, push for tourism

Kevin Rice

Kevin Rice

To the Editor:

I am Kelvin Rice, your candidate for Anderson County Commission District 7. My parents M.L. and Mary Sue Rice moved to Oak Ridge in 1943, and I was raised on Georgia Avenue. As a lifelong resident of Oak Ridge, I have enjoyed being a part of America’s Secret City.

I attended Cedar Hill, Elm Grove, and Jefferson Junior High School. I graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1979. I previously worked at Armstrong Rubber Company as a drop mill operator and then went to Atlas Van Lines as a truck driver. I have served our community as a reserve deputy at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and have served on the Anderson County Jail committee.

I now serve on the Anderson County Beer Board. I enjoy volunteering as our Neighborhood Watch block captain and serve as the district leader for the Watch Group in the Jackson Square area. Trying to stay involved in many areas of our community, I am a member of the Oak Ridge Quarterback Club, Football Boosters, and the Underage Drinking Task Force.

One of the main goals I will strive toward as your next commissioner is to cut taxes. I would encourage our city and county to recruit high-tech jobs, encourage small businesses to locate in our area, and push for tourism that would not only benefit our restaurants and businesses but would also help our hotel industry. The tourism in the city and county is abundant; added attractions would be beneficial to the city in many ways. [Read more…]

Photos: Lavender Festival

Lavender Festival Overview

The 16th annual Lavender Festival was Saturday in Jackson Square in Oak Ridge. The Oak Ridge FARM Market is in the foreground, and the festival is in the background. (Photos by Ray Smith)

 

The 16th Annual Lavender Festival was on Saturday in Jackson Square in Oak Ridge. The herb fair included more than 100 vendors, exhibits, and demonstrations featuring products and information related to gardening, cooking, health, aromatherapy, and all things herbal. 

Throughout the square, vendors offered live plants, herbs, art, crafts, herbal products, jewelry, baskets, pottery, wooden utensils, and more. Sample foods made with herbs were available, and there was also grilling with herb demonstrations by local chefs.

The Oak Ridge FARM Market was open across the street from the festival, local musicians were featured throughout the day, and children’s activities were available.

Vendors said they were very busy at the well-attended festival on Saturday morning. An afternoon storm dampened the activities, but many festival-goers continued to shop and enjoy the music. [Read more…]

Lavender Festival in Jackson Square

The 16th Annual Lavender Festival will be held on Saturday, June 21, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Oak Ridge’s Historic Jackson Square. This herb fair is a perennial favorite of folks from all around and focuses on all that is fresh, healthy, and good for the body and soul.

The Lavender Festival transforms Jackson Square into a hub of activity, information, fun, and of course, lavender. More than 100 vendors, exhibits, and demonstrations will offer products and information related to gardening, cooking, health, aromatherapy, and all things herbal.

The Lavender Festival doesn’t just celebrate lavender. It also features the International Herb Association’s “Herb of the Year,” which this year is Artemisia. Artemesia isn’t just one herb, but a species which includes Tarragon, Mugwort, Wormwood, and Sweet Annie. Gardeners, cooks, and nature enthusiasts can be sure to find useful information about how to use Artemesia in healthy and beautiful ways. Visit the booth in front of the Jackson Square fountain to learn more about Artemesia this year.

Throughout the square, vendors will be offering all varieties of live plants, herbs, art, crafts, herbal products, jewelry, baskets, pottery, wooden utensils, and more. Sample foods made with herbs will be available from 9 to 11 a.m., with grilling with herb demonstrations by local chefs from 1 to 3 p.m. [Read more…]

Reminder: Lavender Festival on Saturday

Lavender Festival

The 16th Annual Lavender Festival will be held on Saturday, June 21, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Oak Ridge’s Historic Jackson Square. This herb fair is a perennial favorite of folks from all around and focuses on all that is fresh, healthy, and good for the body and soul.

The Lavender Festival transforms Jackson Square into a hub of activity, information, fun, and of course, lavender. More than 100 vendors, exhibits, and demonstrations will offer products and information related to gardening, cooking, health, aromatherapy, and all things herbal.

The Lavender Festival doesn’t just celebrate lavender. It also features the International Herb Association’s “Herb of the Year,” which this year is Artemisia. Artemesia isn’t just one herb, but a species which includes Tarragon, Mugwort, Wormwood, and Sweet Annie. Gardeners, cooks, and nature enthusiasts can be sure to find useful information about how to use Artemesia in healthy and beautiful ways. Visit the booth in front of the Jackson Square fountain to learn more about Artemesia this year.

Throughout the square, vendors will be offering all varieties of live plants, herbs, art, crafts, herbal products, jewelry, baskets, pottery, wooden utensils, and more. Sample foods made with herbs will be available from 9 to 11 a.m., with grilling with herb demonstrations by local chefs from 1 to 3 p.m. [Read more…]

Lavender Festival Herb Luncheon

The 16th Annual Lavender Festival will be held on Saturday, June 21, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Oak Ridge’s Historic Jackson Square. This herb fair is a perennial favorite of folks from all around and focuses on all that is fresh, healthy, and good for the body and soul.

An Herb Luncheon will be held the day before the festival, on Friday, June 20, under the festival tent. This is a peaceful event that features quiet harp music by Beck Hook, a wonderful herbal lunch, and a guest speaker, Jim Brown of Honey Rock Herb Farm, who will speak about “The Herbs and the Bees.” For luncheon reservations, call (865) 483-0961. The cost to attend is $20.

See this story for more information on the Lavender Festival.

For more information visit www.JacksonSquareLavenderFestival.org.

Grand opening, ribbon cutting at New China Palace on Thursday

New China Palace Restaurant Interior

The interior of the New China Palace restaurant on Central Avenue is pictured above.

 

The New China Palace restaurant will have a grand opening and ribbing cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The hour-long ceremony is sponsored by the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

The New China Palace, which has relocated from the Oak Ridge Marina, is now at 123 Central Avenue in the Jackson Square area. [Read more…]