Note: This story was last updated at 9:10 p.m.
The demolition permit has been applied for and the site plan approved, two crucial steps in the proposal to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall as Main Street Oak Ridge, a 60-acre site that could include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and a hotel.
Developers applied for the demolition permit last week, Oak Ridge Community Development Director Kathryn Baldwin said Thursday. It will now be reviewed by the city staff. The demolition could include the existing space between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, although those two stores would remain.
The site plan is for the construction of the first phase “building footprints” and the infrastructure to serve them, Baldwin said. Construction drawings for the buildings themselves will come later.
The site plan for the core retail area was approved unanimously by the 10-member Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission on Thursday evening. It incorporated comments by the city staff. It does not require approval by the Oak Ridge City Council.
The next step is for Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina firm that has proposed the $80 million redevelopment, to submit a revised site plan that “meets the staff comments,” Baldwin said.
“This step was necessary for closing,” Baldwin said.
She said the staff’s civil engineering comments have been addressed, and work on the electric comments is ongoing.
The other steps unanimously approved by planning commissioners on Thursday were a preliminary plat that details construction plans for East and West Main Street and Wilson Street, which are private roads but could become public streets, and approval of tiered signage at Main Street Oak Ridge that would include perimeter signs, directional signs, and individual store signs.
“I’m very optimistic that it’s actually going to take place now,” said Terry Domm, Planning Commission chair.
Phase two of the project could include the multi-family units, five outparcels, and the hotel.
The primary work under way now at the former mall, which is officially called the Oak Ridge City Center, is asbestos abatement.
Domm said he’s visited other Crosland Southeast developments, and they’re very nice. It’s clear that the company has put a lot of time, money, and engineering work into the Oak Ridge project, Domm said.
“I’m encouraged,” he said.
Crosland Southeast plans to open Main Street Oak Ridge to retailers by Thanksgiving 2016.
Steve Arnsdorff, chief manager of Oak Ridge City Center LLC, which owns the property now, said he is also optimistic about the redevelopment.
“These guys are very thorough,” Arnsdorff said of Crosland Southeast. “They’re very good at what they do…I hope they’re able to do what we weren’t able to do—redevelop the mall.”
The main challenge now is getting everything “bow tied,” he said.
Baldwin said the review of the demolition permit could include discussion of disconnecting utilities without affecting existing utilities such as electricity at businesses like Belk, JCPenney, and Tinseltown Theater, or the fire protection system in the existing buildings. Some utility lines could be rerouted, she said.
Other steps recently announced on the eagerly anticipated mall redevelopment include pre-demolition activities and bid reviews, and roughly $500,000 worth of pledges from six local employers to help cover public infrastructure costs.
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.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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