Site plans have been approved for the first phase of Main Street Oak Ridge—the project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall—and construction drawings have been approved for most buildings in Phase I, a city official said Thursday.
The city staff is ready to issue demolition permits, and the staff has a utility disconnect “game plan,” said Kathryn Baldwin, director of Oak Ridge Community Development.
“We’re very much ready,” Baldwin said at a Thursday evening work session of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission will consider adding a lot to the subdivision plat for the roughly 60-acre site on Thursday. If approved, that change would create 11 interior lots. Officials said that requested change has to do with project financing and it’s a minor change from what was approved several months ago.
Baldwin said city staff members have determined where sewer, water, and electrical services can be capped for the redevelopment of the mostly empty mall. The staff has also met with the demolition contractor, Baldwin said.
She said the city is focused on Phase I for now. Other site plans could be considered later for subsequent phases.
At one time, plans had called for opening seven new stores to retailers in September 2016, and it was expected that they could open in October, in time for the holiday season. But that plan hinged on demolition starting early this year, with developers expecting to complete it by the end of March or early April.
In March, Ray Evans, Oak Ridge retail consultant, said that couldn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but the project “continues to move forward, although not as quickly as any of us had hoped.”
He said RealtyLink, which took over as master developer in September, is working hard on the project and is in constant communication with the city. Progress is still being made, Evans said at the time, but there are still a few things that need to be done before the property sale can close, and construction can start.
Evans said there are no city issues causing a delay in the closing.
It’s been difficult to get information on the precise nature of any hurdles that remain on the sale of the property because it is a private transaction. RealtyLink had originally hoped to close on the property sale in mid-December, although the company was still fairly new to the project at that time.
On Sunday, Evans said the Oak Ridge city staff has gone “above and beyond” while working on the project, not showing favoritism but doing what they can to help the project proceed in the community’s interest.
“They’ve really worked hard to facilitate all these various submittals,” Evans said of the demolition plans and subdivision plats, among other project documents.
Among the work that has occurred among Oak Ridge municipal departments is developing a strategy to allow the demolition of enclosed mall space without adversely affecting the two remaining anchors, JCPenney and Belk.
According to previously announced plans, Main Street Oak Ridge would be a roughly $80 million project that would replace the mostly empty mall with a mix of retail, restaurants, and about 200 residential units, which could be in four- to five-story buildings with retail on the ground floor, and possibly a hotel. The vacant enclosed space between JCPenney and Belk would be demolished, although those two stores would remain.
The redevelopment has been eagerly anticipated for years. Public discussion of the mall sale started about four years ago, in April 2012. There have been other redevelopment efforts as well since the early 2000s.
RealtyLink, which is based in Greenville, South Carolina, took over as master developer in September 2015, replacing Crosland Southeast, a North Carolina firm that had worked on the project for more than two years and invested more than $1 million.
The Thursday meeting of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission starts at 5:30 p.m. April 21 in the Municipal Building Courtroom.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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