Note: This story was last updated at 7 p.m.
The six companies contributing $500,000 for public infrastructure at Main Street Oak Ridge approached the city and volunteered to help, a consultant said Friday.
The companies are Methodist Medical Center; Oak Ridge Associated Universities; UCOR, a federal cleanup contractor; Restoration Services Inc., a cleanup contractor; Consolidated Nuclear Security, which manages and operates Y-12 National Security Complex; and UT-Battelle, which operates and manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The companies understand how important the project is to the city and to them, said Ray Evans, retail consultant for the City of Oak Ridge.
“They approached us and said, ‘How can we help?'” Evans said. “They just want to ensure the success of this project.”
Three attorneys who do about 90 percent of the tax increment financing, or TIF, deals in Tennessee had never heard of a contribution like this before, Evans said. Main Street Oak Ridge is using a TIF.
“We were delighted when they stepped up and said, ‘We want to do something, how we can help?’” Evans said of the six companies. He said the companies, which all have operations in Oak Ridge, approached him several months ago.
Evans said the $500,000 contribution, which will be considered by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board on Monday afternoon, provides a psychological boost that may be as important as the financial contribution.
“Just the fact that they wanted to do it is just so important,” he said.
And the money helps ensure that the public infrastructure work is completed.
Evans said he can’t think of any reason the IDB wouldn’t approve the contribution. It doesn’t need approval by the Oak Ridge City Council. The money would have to be used for or directly related to public infrastructure, such as streets; relocating water, sewer, or power lines; or installing new traffic signals.
Officials identified more than $2 million in public infrastructure needs last fall. An application for a $1 million federal grant was unsuccessful. The $500,000 contribution from the six companies would be added to the $1 million approved by Oak Ridge City Council last fall and the $500,000 approved by the IDB.
Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina company that has proposed the 60-acre, $80 million redevelopment, hopes to have Main Street Oak Ridge open for retailers by Thanksgiving 2016.
Main Street Oak Ridge would redevelop the mall as a mixed-use project that would include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and a hotel. The existing space between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, would be demolished, although those two stores would remain.
In March, developers announced they had signed their first anchor store lease. In May, they announced that Atlanta-based MDC development group, through its affiliated company Canterfield Hotel Group LLC, will build a new 120-room hotel at the site.
Like other local officials, business leaders, and prospective developers, Evans said the mall redevelopment is a very complex deal—but that hasn’t stopped Crosland.
He said the project has thousands of items on the check list, as opposed to hundreds, and sometimes more get added.
Still, he said the project is on track despite any obstacles that have arisen.
“Everything is progressing well, and I have no reason to think that we won’t get across the finish line,” Evans said.
The IDB meets at 4 p.m. Monday in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Training Room.
The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission will also consider Main Street Oak Ridge during a work session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9. A project site plan has been submitted and so has a preliminary subdivision plat for East Main, West Main, and Wilson streets.
Also this week, Oak Ridge Today learned that Crosland Southeast is working on pre-demolition activities and reviewing bids for the project.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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