The four new stores at Main Street Oak Ridge could create 150 jobs and generate more than $600,000 in sales and property tax revenues for Oak Ridge and Anderson County, according to calculations by the city’s economic development consultant.
The estimated new revenues could include $572,096 in sales tax revenues and $116,965 in property tax revenues for Oak Ridge and Anderson County, according to the calculations. The portion of new sales tax revenues for just Oak Ridge could total $385,158, according to the calculations.
The four new stores are part of a revised plan for Main Street Oak Ridge, the 58-acre redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall.
A new version of that plan is scheduled to be considered by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission on Thursday. The economic benefit calculations for the new stores are included in the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.
Here is the specific breakdown of the economic benefits of the four new stores, which could total 75,000 square feet, according to the calculations:
- Property tax revenues (Oak Ridge and Anderson County)—$116,964
- Sales tax revenues
- Total Oak Ridge and Anderson County—$572,096
- Total Oak Ridge—$385,158
- City of Oak Ridge—$286,048
- Oak Ridge Schools—$99,110
Ray Evans, the city consultant, said the original economic impact statement for tax increment financing at Main Street Oak Ridge had to estimate property tax revenues, sales tax revenues, and employment levels.
“I just took that same process and continued it for these for new shops,” Evans said Wednesday. That’s consistent with what has been done previously, Evans said.
As one check of the accuracy of the calculations, the TIF lenders have said that the property tax revenues coming to them from Main Street are at about the levels that were anticipated, Evans said.
A previous version of the revised plan for Main Street Oak Ridge was unanimously approved by Oak Ridge City Council with seven conditions in December and then rejected in a 3-4 vote on second and final reading in January.
Earlier this month, Oak Ridge Today reported that the most recent version of the revised plan was similar to what Oak Ridge officials have seen before, with minor variations. For example, some things that were incorporated in the latest version had only discussed before, such as sidewalks. It’s not clear if the revised plan has changed in the past few weeks.
The agenda for Thursday’s meeting says the revised planned unit development, or PUD, for Main Street Oak Ridge would eliminate the 230 multi-family units that had once been planned in the area between JCPenney and Walmart; eliminate the roundabout and its access road to Rutgers Avenue, allowing the four new stores to be built between PetSmart and JCPenney; add the retail space, pedestrian connections, and green space; and outline future development areas, including mixed-use areas along Wilson Street.
“The proposed revisions to the Main Street Oak Ridge PUD master plan continue to present a different direction in overall character than the original plan, with a focus on retail stores,” the city staff in the agenda. “However, the owner-developer (TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC) has presented several constraints and conditions influencing development of the property that support their request for an amendment.”
If Planning Commission recommends approval of the revised plan, the city wants to include some staff comments, including a requirement for a new or revised traffic impact study.
The plan is expected to be considered by the Oak Ridge City Council later.
The Main Street Oak Ridge PUD that is in effect now was approved by City Council in May 2015, before RealtyLink was the developer. That PUD shows 440,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and the 230 multi-family units.
Phase one has been mostly completed, the city staff said, with the hotel and about 330,000 square feet of retail, including the space occupied by the relocated American Museum of Science and Energy.
The revised plan for Main Street had been proposed as RealtyLink, which is now the developer, prepares to welcome a second wave of tenants after the first phase went well.
Phase two, the phase under consideration now, could include about 90,000 square feet of new retail buildings, an open space near Belk, and new sidewalks and crosswalks.
The third phase could include three areas of future development, the city staff said. An estimated 3.5 acres facing Rutgers Avenue would be reserved for retail uses, and a similar-sized mixed-use area along Wilson Street would be reserved for “residential, commercial, retail, civil, and/or hospitality” uses.
The city staff said that adding a long line of retail storefronts as part of phase two, connecting Burkes Outlet and other stores to JCPenney, would “challenge the notion of pedestrian scale and quality urban design within the project. The proposed row of storefronts presents a 900-foot length of building facing large expanses of parking.” TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC has said there will be benches, trash receptacles, and plantings along the sidewalk where possible, the staff said.
“Well-connected pathways can protect the safety and quality of experience of the user/shopper and reduce conflict with vehicles on the site,” the staff said.
The current submittal from RealtyLink and TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC, which is affiliated with RealtyLink, includes two separate exhibits, one for sidewalks and one for green space “so that these features can be seen more clearly,” the staff said.
A recent version of the plan was discussed during a Planning Commission work session on April 11. Some concerns that had been raised before were raised again, such as the proposal to close the access road from Rutgers Avenue to the roundabout at Main Street. But the meeting created at least some hope that an agreement might be reached between Oak Ridge officials and RealtyLink, the South Carolina development company leading the project. It seemed to help that a development representative was at the meeting to talk to planning commissioners.
Those who have previously raised concerns about the revised plan have objected to what they see as a shift, at least for now, from a proposed mixed-use town center to what would mostly be a shopping center; the removal of the access road from Rutgers Avenue to the roundabout; opposition to the potential storage facility on Rutgers Avenue; and requests for more restaurants, unique stores, open space, a “city center,” and changes to parking lots and sidewalks.
Those who have supported the revised plan have said Oak Ridge doesn’t have the leverage or retail expertise to dictate what should happen at the shopping center. They said the city and county need the retail development and the expected sales tax and property tax revenues. They pointed out that the original plan for Main Street was prepared by an earlier developer who is no longer part of the project, and they warned that rejecting the revised plan could delay the rest of the project for several decades, and RealtyLink, one of a half-dozen firms of its type, could move on to other projects in other communities.
The first request to amend the PUD master plan for Main Street Oak Ridge was submitted in October. After six meetings and work sessions, the Planning Commission voted 5-4 at a special meeting in December to recommend approval with 10 conditions.
City Council approved the revised plan, amending the conditions to seven, during a special meeting in December, before rejecting the revised plan in January.
Several plans over several decades have stressed the importance of revitalizing the city center, including a Lose and Associates City Center Master Plan in 2000 and the new City Blueprint.
About a dozen stores and businesses have already been built at Main Street Oak Ridge, including, most recently, a Burkes Outlet, and there is a building under construction by Walgreen’s.
See the Planning Commission agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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