Four new stores are planned at Main Street Oak Ridge, but construction has been suspended for now.
The four new stores are Five Below, Home Goods, Old Navy, and Ross Dress for Less. The retailers have signed leases, and their stores could be ready to open as soon as the spring of 2021, said Neil Wilson, principal of the development company, TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC. The new stores would be between JCPenney and PetSmart. That includes some of the area where the roundabout used to be.
But construction of the building that would contain the new stores has been suspended.
“Retailers are postponing the opening of new stores and re-thinking the size and configuration of store footprints,” Wilson told Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson in an April 20 letter. “As a result, the retail developers are delaying the construction of the building to house those new stores.”
Wilson said TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC is trying hard to get the project back into its development timeline in 60 days. The storage facility, which has previously been considered by city officials, is part of the effort to get the project back on track, he said.
Wilson said retailers are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the estimated growth in global retail for 2020 will be cut in half from the levels that were forecast before COVID-19.
The types of stores that will be hit the hardest are “short-term, fashion, furniture, and electronics retailers,” Wilson said. Customers will buy fewer of those discretionary items, choosing instead to stock up on food and household supplies.
But in the meantime, construction could proceed quickly on a three-story self-storage facility at Main Street Oak Ridge. It would be along Rutgers Avenue, behind Burkes Outlet, Electronic Express, and PetSmart. The self-storage market is doing well, Wilson said.
Some residents and city officials, including members of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission, have opposed the proposed self-storage facility or shown little interest in it.
But in a split vote Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council voted 4-3 to approve a zoning change that could allow it. The zoning ordinance amendment, which did not specifically approve the Main Street Oak Ridge project, is expected to be considered for final approval during another City Council meeting in June.
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