Note: This story was last updated at 11:15 a.m.
The new company leading the project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall plans to close on the property on December 15, an executive said Tuesday. It’s the first time a closing date has been announced by one of the developers associated with the project.
The new developer, RealtyLink, plans to have a minimum of seven stores open by Christmas 2016, Principal Neil Wilson said. That would include four stores adjacent to Belk and two adjacent to Walmart.
Wilson declined to name the stores but said the new mixed-use development, called Main Street Oak Ridge, could include a sporting goods store, a cosmetics retailer, one or two apparel merchants, and a 20,000-square-foot electronics shop that has signed a letter of intent. There could be a total of about 150,000 square feet of retail in those stores. There areÂ roughly 130,000 square feet of retail at JCPenney and Belk, which will have a new facade and entrance.
Wilson said his company, which is based inÂ Greenville, South Carolina, wants to start demolition on the enclosed spaces between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, the day after it closes on the purchase of the roughly 60-acre property in the center of Oak Ridge.
RealtyLink took over as master developer in September, replacing Crosland Southeast, a North Carolina firm that had worked on the $80 redevelopment project for more than two years and invested more than $1 million.
“The project itself is a very complex project,” Wilson told 150 or so people at a Tuesday morning Rise and Shine business event organized by the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. It’s probably the “second or third most complex project I’ve ever worked on,” Wilson said.
Tasks include “demalling” the current site and building back a new shopping center while keeping Belk and JCPenney open. There is utility work that has to be done without interrupting existing operations.
Wilson said the old Oak Ridge City Center signs are coming down when RealtyLink closes on the property, and new signs are going up.
“If you can split the atom, you all deserve a good mall,” Wilson said, referring to the history of Oak Ridge and its ongoing nuclear work and energy research.
In other developments announced Tuesday, RealtyLink said it:
- has a contractor on board,
- is working on a third apparel store,
- has signed a letter of intent with a hotel,
- is working with a multifamily developer,
- has six leases and one letter of intent, and
- is working with a potential anchor store close to Belk and JCPenney.
There is still more than 75,000 square feet available to lease, Wilson said.
He said demolition could take four months and be complete by the end of March or early April. Construction could start April 1.Â RealtyLink plans to turn over the seven new stores to retailers in September 2016, and they could open in October, in time for the holiday season.
Small stores could open later.
Main Street Oak Ridge would include retailers, restaurants, a hotel, and about 200 residential units, which could be in four- to five-story buildings with retail on the ground floor. The project could be complete by December 2018.
RealtyLink is working with the city on permits, Wilson said. The company negotiated with Crosland Southeast to purchase their “due diligence,” which included engineering drawings and architectural drawings.
RealtyLink, a company that has grown from a $30 million firm in 2009 to $200 million today, has shown an interest in the redevelopment for several years.
Main Street Oak RidgeÂ could have a total of 460,000 square feet of retail, including Belk and JCPenney.Â Thatâ€™s an increase of about 60,000 square feet, compared to what Crosland Southeast had proposed.Â RealtyLink recently said that about 300,000 square feet is already â€œspoken forâ€ through confirmed leases and letters of intent from national retailers.
The company has said demolition could start at Sears and go counterclockwise around the site. Construction could follow a similar pattern.
SomeÂ minor changesÂ have been made to the $13 million tax increment financing, or TIF, package that will be used for the redevelopment.Â Those changesÂ have been approved by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, Oak Ridge City Council, and Anderson County Commission.Â The IDB approved the changes on a voice vote with no opposition during a special meeting Monday, October 19. The County Commission approved them 15-0 that night. The City Council approved them 6-1 during a special meeting on Tuesday, October 20.
See previous story here.
More information will be added as itÂ becomes available.
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