Note: This story was last updated at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 15.
The new company leading the redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall won’t close on the property on Tuesday, and the closing could be pushed into January, officials said this month.
But it’s nothing to be concerned about, one official said Monday, adding that there are many pre-closing activities to accomplish in a short period of time, some in series.
“There have been no holdups, just a lot to do,” said Ray Evans, retail consultant for the City of Oak Ridge. “As an example, a subdivision plat has to be approved by the Planning Commission prior to closing. In order for the plat to be prepared, the property had to be re-surveyed. The new survey stakes are very apparent around the property. The plat was submitted yesterday (Monday). It will likely go before the Planning Commission at its meeting on January 7.”
Evans said RealtyLink has had geotechnical staff on site doing core borings during the past few weeks.
“In addition, they have been working on completing the environmental work,” he said.
Officials said RealtyLink and its contractor remain committed to having stores open for seven of the new tenants for the 2016 Christmas season.
The new developer, RealtyLink, had said in early November that it planned to close on the property on December 15. That was the first time a closing date has been announced by one of the developers associated with the project.
But earlier this month, officials said the closing date could be pushed into early January.
During a December 7 meeting of the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, officials said work continues with the senior lender on the proposed $80 million redevelopment as well as with a local group of financial institutions that will lend money for work that will use tax increment financing, also known as a TIF. Also, officials said leases are being finalized on the 60-acre mixed-use redevelopment in the center of Oak Ridge.
“I think we are as far along as we can be at this point,” said David Bradshaw, Oak Ridge city president for CapitalMark Bank and Trust, the lead bank in the TIF lending group.
Even if the closing doesn’t happen on December 15, as had been announced, it’s not just another delay, Evans said. He pointed out that RealtyLink’s only been involved in the project for about 90 days, and the company has had to go out and renegotiate leases and get more leases.
“My opinion is: They’ve done a phenomenal job of getting to where they are,” Evans said.
RealtyLink, which took over as master developer in September, plans to have a minimum of seven stores open by Christmas 2016, Principal Neil Wilson said in early November. That would include four stores adjacent to Belk and two adjacent to Walmart.
Officials said demolition could start in January, and signs could be erected soon at the site of the proposed redevelopment, to be called Main Street Oak Ridge. Large survey stakes are visible around the property now, and there are two cleanup dumpsters stationed near JCPenney.
As proposed, Main Street Oak Ridge would redevelop the former, mostly empty Oak Ridge Mall in a $80 million project that could include a mix of retail, restaurants, and residential units, possibly including a hotel. The vacant enclosed space between the two remaining anchors, JCPenney and Belk, would be demolished, although those two stores would remain.
The former developer, Crosland Southeast, had announced a series of steps this year, including pre-demolition activities and roughly $500,000 worth of pledges from six local employers to help cover public infrastructure costs.
The $13 million tax increment financing, or TIF, package has already been approved for the project. The TIF, which has had some minor changes since RealtyLink took over, would help cover development costs using new property tax revenues generated at the site. The change in property taxes in a designated economic impact area would be used to repay the TIF loan.
Besides CapitalMark Bank and Trust, the TIF lending group includes TNBank and First National Bank of Tennessee.
A site plan for Main Street Oak Ridge was approved by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission in August, and officials said then that an application had been submitted for a demolition permit.
Wilson declined to name the stores that plan to open by Christmas 2016, but he said 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, Wilson said during a November 3 Rise and Shine talk sponsored by the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce at TNBank.
There are now 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 in Greenville, South Carolina, wants to start demolition on the enclosed spaces between Belk and JCPenney the day after it closes on the purchase of the property.
Crosland Southeast is a North Carolina firm that had worked on the redevelopment project for more than two years and invested more than $1 million.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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