Note: This story was last updated at 10:15 a.m. March 27.
The developers who want to convert the former Oak Ridge Mall into Main Street Oak Ridge signed their first anchor store lease last week, an executive said Thursday.
And three to five more leases could be signed in the next month or so, said Tim Sittema of Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina company that has proposed the roughly 60-acre redevelopment.
Main Street Oak Ridge would redevelop the mall as a mixed-use project that would include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and possibly a hotel. The existing space between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, would be demolished, although those two stores would remain.
Sittema said an anchor store is a large retailer of 20,000 square feet or more that attracts other stores. Main Street Oak Ridge could include three anchors besides Belk and JCPenney, although the new retailers will probably be in smaller spaces than the two existing stores.
The name of the new anchor has not been released yet. Crosland Southeast has previously said that tenants at Main Street Oak Ridge determine when to make their announcements. (Oak Ridge Today will publish any announcement we get as soon as we get it.)
The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission unanimously recommended a rezoning for Main Street Oak Ridge on Thursday, and members also unanimously recommended a planned unit development, or PUD, master plan for the project.
“Our work is not yet finished, but this is a significant step along the way,” Sittema told planning commissioners.
Commissioners approved a variance that allows buildings up to 90 feet high. That will allow multi-floor residential units and the hotel. Some of the buildings could be up to five stories, Oak Ridge Community Development Director Kathryn Baldwin said.
Sittema said Main Street Oak Ridge will include one building with retail on the first floor and residential units above, and there will be additional three- to four-floor residential buildings.
Main Street Oak Ridge will include a total of about 325,000 square feet of retail space, or about 200,000 square feet of retail space more than what Belk and JCPenney have now. It could have 153 residential units, including the spaces for rent above retail outlets.
The rezoning and PUD master plan, which will serve as a blueprint for the development, will be considered by the Oak Ridge City Council on first and second reading in April, with the first meeting scheduled for April 13.
Crosland Southeast hopes to close on the property this summer, begin demolition and construction at about the same time, and have Main Street Oak Ridge open in the fall of 2016.
Sittema said the Manhattan Project National Historical Park helps the whole community, including Main Street Oak Ridge.
“I think that it is a fantastic contribution,” Sittema said.
The park is being developed in Oak Ridge; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington. It would tell the story of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II.
National Park Service and U.S. Department of Energy officials were in Oak Ridge this week to start planning for the new park. Their visit included a Thursday morning open house at the Oak Ridge Civic Center.
Although the park is still early in the planning process, local officials have proposed that a park hub in Oak Ridge be located in the area of the Municipal Building, Civic Center, Public Library, and American Museum of Science and Energy. If that happens, it would be right across the street from Main Street Oak Ridge.
More information will be added as it becomes available.