The Oak Ridge City Council will consider applying for a $100,000 grant application to help rebuild the Friendship Bell House in Alvin K. Bissell Park, and members will also consider a preliminary plan and re-zonings that would allow a retail development on 2.29 acres along South Illinois Avenue between Aldi grocery and Weigel’s gas station and convenience store.
If Council approves, the city would apply for a Friendship Bell grant from the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, which supports projects that “contribute to international cultural exchange and international goodwill.” The city is requesting $100,000 to match $50,000 from the Oak Ridge Capital Projects Fund and $50,000 from private and community contributions and donations. The grant application outlines a 50/50 match requirement if the request is approved.
A February inspection determined that the 65-70 percent of the wooden support beams in the bell house were compromised and showed substantial deterioration, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department Director Josh Collins said in a memo to City Manager Mark S. Watson.
In June, the Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Board recommended that the bell house be removed and the bell placed on the concrete pad. That work was done in early August. The board will discuss a timeline for rebuilding the bell house during its September 11 meeting. That timeline will include two public meetings to discuss potential bell house designs and review construction estimates. The board plans to work with community leaders to create a fundraising committee to build support for the project and raise money to match the grant funding, Collins said.
The preliminary master plan and re-zonings for the South Illinois Avenue property will be considered on second and final reading tonight. The property would be rezoned from residential to business. The developer is Rudd, Seeley, and Wallis of Nashville. The company has proposed a one-story, 15,200-square-foot commercial building next to Aldi.
Tonight’s City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.