Note: This story was last updated at 6:55 p.m.
Demolition work at the former Oak Ridge Mall could start at the end of November at the former Sears store, and eight new stores could open at the redeveloped 60-acre site by Christmas 2016, officials said Monday.
RealtyLink, the new master developer announced in September, has been looking at the mostly vacant shopping center in the heart of Oak Ridge since 2009. They replace Crosland Southeast, which had been working on the $80 million redevelopment project for more than two years.
RealtyLink, which is based in Greenville, South Carolina, hopes to close on the property, which is now owned by Oak Ridge City Center LLC, at the end of November.
A demolition permit has already been issued, but it’s not in RealtyLink’s name.
RealtyLink plans to open more than 200,000 square feet of retail by Christmas 2016. That includes roughly 130,000 square feet of retail at JCPenney and Belk, which will have a new facade and entrance.
There will be more than 75,000 square feet of new retail in the eight new stores, RealtyLink said. The new retailers could be announced in about a month.
RealtyLink plans to be done with the retail development, which includes 460,000 square feet of retail, including Belk and JCPenney, in 18 months. About 300,000 square feet is already “spoken for” through confirmed leases and letters of intent from national retailers.
That’s an increase of about 60,000 square feet, compared to what Crosland Southeast had proposed.
RealtyLink plans to be done with the entire phased project, including a hotel, restaurants, and about 200 residential units in less than three years. That’s an increase of about 50 residential units. They could be in four- to five-story buildings with retail on the ground floor.
About 70 percent of the asbestos abatement at the former mall has been done, and developers have state approval, including from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said RealtyLink, which is also working on River Landing in Sevierville.
The company said demolition could start at Sears and go counterclockwise around the site. Construction could follow a similar pattern.
There will be room for local and regional retailers. No restaurants are planned before December 2016, but there are plans for some later.
Some minor changes are being made to the $13 million tax increment financing, or TIF, package that has already been approved for the project, known as Main Street Oak Ridge. Those changes are being considered by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, Oak Ridge City Council, and Anderson County Commission.
The IDB approved the changes on a voice vote with no opposition during a special meeting Monday afternoon (October 19). The County Commission approved them 15-0 on Monday night. The City Council will consider them during a special meeting Tuesday, October 20.
RealtyLink will use different lenders than Crosland Southeast.
They see market potential in the mall redevelopment, calling it a “great opportunity” and pointing out there is a lot of traffic flowing through Oak Ridge.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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