Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam visited Oak Ridge about one year ago to announce that a state grant valued at roughly $800,000 had been awarded to the city to help revitalize Jackson Square, focusing on parking, lighting, landscaping, and benches.
Next month, Oak Ridge officials will have an open house to present three conceptual drawings for the project, which is in the city’s original town center. The public meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant awarded last year is to be used for the project’s first phase, which includes renovating the Jackson Square parking lot by adding handicapped parking and access, pedestrian lighting and circulation, landscaping and event enhancements, and bicycle racks and benches, a city press release said.
At the Aug. 7 meeting, the Oak Ridge Community Development staff will record public comments on the conceptual drawings and provide feedback to project team members Hedstrom Design LLC, Landscape Architects, and Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers Inc.
“The design will be finalized, and construction is anticipated to begin in January 2014, with a completion date by the 2014 Lavender Festival (in June),” the press release said.
More information is available on the city’s website at www.oakridgetn.gov or by calling (865) 425-3531.
“The Jackson Square project will further Oak Ridge’s efforts to enhance its historic downtown area and provide increased mobility and improved access to small businesses and cultural activities,” Haslam said last year.
The grant, which requires a 20 percent city match, is for the first phase of what is officially called the Jackson Square Townsite Reconfiguration Project.
“We’re bringing the town center back…and bringing it to the future in a different format,” Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said.
The project includes major changes to the parking lot on Broadway Avenue, a state press release said at the time. It will transform parts of the square “into an attractive, landscaped plaza and parking area.”
Some sidewalks will be repaired, and new ones will be built. The project will also add trees and pedestrian lighting.
The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Haslam said the enhancement grant awarded to Oak Ridge was one of 15 given across the state. The grants were competitive, with 10 applications for each one awarded.
The governor cited the historical significance of Jackson Square, the city’s original commercial center when Oak Ridge was built to secretly enrich uranium for atomic bombs during the Manhattan Project in World War II.
Recently, the square has been the site of a significant amount of new commercial activity, including new restaurants and businesses, a new bank, a renovation of the Oak Ridge Playhouse, and a conversion of the historic but dilapidated Alexander Inn into an assisted living center, a project now under way.