Note: This story was last updated at 3:30 p.m.
They tore down the old Oak Ridge Mall sign on Wednesday and erected a new shopping center pylon sign on Monday. It announces Main Street Oak Ridge, the planned $80 million redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall.
Although it appears a small step to some, it is another sign of progress on the long-awaited, eagerly anticipated redevelopment of the mostly empty mall. It’s actually the biggest visible change at the mall property in years.
Local officials pointed out that the sign change wouldn’t have happened without the approval of the current owner, Oak Ridge City Center LLC. Also, the change presumably required the new developer, RealtyLink of South Carolina, to spend some money on the sign and its installation, officials said.
The new 31-foot, three-section sign, which was welded in place after it was installed, has enough space for 20 retailers to be listed. It’s at the intersection of South Illinois Avenue and East Tulsa Road, in front of Red Lobster.
RealtyLink, which has only been involved in the project for about three months, has said it still plans to have stores open for seven of the new tenants by the 2016 holiday shopping season.
Based in Greenville, South Carolina, RealtyLink could close on the purchase of the roughly 60-acre site in January. A subdivision plat for Main Street Oak Ridge could be considered during a January 7 meeting of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission.
Demolition of the vacant enclosed space between the two remaining anchors, JCPenney and Belk, could start in January. Those two stores would remain.
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.
Masstar Signs removed the monument sign for the former Oak Ridge Mall on Wednesday.
Tim Massengale, co-owner of Masstar Signs, which is also based in Greenville, South Carolina, said his company will be putting up more pylon signs at the site in the future, although he is not sure when yet.
A local electrician will wire the sign that was installed on Monday, Massengale said.
Four of the new stores expected to be open by Christmas 2016 would be adjacent to Belk and two would be adjacent to Walmart, according to Neil Wilson, RealtyLink principal. Wilson gave a project update in early November.
Wilson declined to name the stores, but he said the mixed-use development 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 are roughly 130,000 square feet of retail at JCPenney and Belk, which will have a new facade and entrance.
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.
Developers and officials have described the redevelopment as a very complex project. 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.
In early November, Wilson said demolition could take four months and be complete by the end of March or early April. Construction could start April 1. 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 could have a total of 460,000 square feet of retail, including Belk and JCPenney. That’s an increase of about 60,000 square feet, compared to what Crosland Southeast had proposed. RealtyLink recently said that about 300,000 square feet is already “spoken for” 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.
The Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, Oak Ridge City Council, Anderson County Commission, and state officials have approved a $13 million tax increment financing, or TIF, package that will be used for the redevelopment. 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.
RealtyLink has had to re-survey the property, and new survey stakes, marked with pink survey ribbons, are very apparent around the property. RealtyLink has recently had geotechnical staff on site doing core borings, and they have been working on completing environmental work.
See photos here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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