The search for a company to help transform historic Jackson Square with the help of an $800,000 grant could start this week, Oak Ridge officials said Monday.
The city plans to release a request for proposals, or RFP, for consulting engineers this week, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. The winning firm will help design and configure the new square, and meet with the public. Picking a company could take three to four weeks, Watson said.
A separate company will be selected to do an environmental review of historic buildings at Jackson Square, Oak Ridge’s original town center.
The redevelopment of the square will use a roughly $800,000 state award of federal highway money to improve the parking lot on Broadway Avenue, build and repair sidewalks, add trees and pedestrian lighting, and make the square an “attractive, landscaped plaza and parking area.”
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer toured the square on Monday afternoon with TDOT and local officials, but he declined to put a timeline on the project, which requires a local funding match of $200,000.
Watson said it would take at least 18 months to get to the construction bidding stage.
Oak Ridge officials have enthusiastically endorsed the redevelopment of the shopping center, built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project. They point out that the Oak Ridge Playhouse has been renovated, two new restaurants and a bank have recently opened there, and two companies have proposed converting the historic but run-down Alexander Inn into an assisted living center.
“This is a revival of the town square,” Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said. “You’ve got a lot of potential here.”
City officials said Jackson Square is located along the city’s designated east-west bike and pedestrian corridor and near major employment centers, such as the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office, Appalachian Underwriters, and Methodist Medical Center.
“This really pulled all of it together,” Watson said of the Tennessee traffic enhancement grant. “The enhancement grant will take us to the next level.”
Schroer’s stop in Oak Ridge was part of a four-day tour of projects in East Tennsseee. He was accompanied by more than a dozen employees from TDOT headquarters and another half-dozen from the department’s Region One office in Knoxville.
The Region One Tour started Monday afternoon in Morgan County and ends in Sullivan County on Thursday.
Schroer started the tours of TDOT’s four regions last year. He said they allow TDOT employees to meet with local officials and state representatives, and see projects first-hand.