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.
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.