Dormant Oak Ridge shopping mall gets new lease on life

Dormant Oak Ridge shopping mall gets new lease on life

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OAK RIDGE (WATE) - An Oak Ridge shopping mall that has been largely dormant for several years appears to be on the verge of gaining new life.

A purchase agreement has been signed by Crosland Southeast to take ownership of Oak Ridge City Center, with plans to tear down the main structure and redevelop the property.

The agreement to purchase the mall from Oak Ridge City Center, LLC was announced by the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

Local officials have tried for years to get the property redeveloped after many retailers moved out. By 2010 the mall was 90 percent vacant.

Details of Crosland Southeast's plans for the property were not provided, but the developer is said to be conducting due diligence with possible demolition of the current mall by early 2014.

A mix of retail, restaurants and offices is expected, which is the kind of project Crosland Southeast typically develops.

The company has previously developed several projects in North Carolina, including Biltmore Park Town Square in Asheville. It also developed Providence Marketplace near Nashville.

"The lack of retail and sales tax leakage have been huge issues to everyone who lives in Oak Ridge for a number of years," Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan is quoted in the release issued by the Chamber of Commerce. "Crosland Southeast has a solid reputation for taking shopping centers like the Oak Ridge Mall and turning them into thriving, quality developments. This is a great day for Oak Ridge!"

According to the Chamber of Commerce, discussions with Crosland Southeast about the project began last fall. At least four other prospective buyers were considered since Oak Ridge City Center, LLC announced last summer it was seeking a buyer for the nearly vacant mall.

A multiplex movie theatre, Belks and JC Penney department stores and a Walmart are currently the only major retailers remaining on the property.

Sears departed from Oak Ridge in early 2012.

In the last few months, however, Oak Ridge has seen a bump in the retail economy. Site development has begun for the construction of a new Kroger Marketplace, which was announced in September.

Aubrey's recently opened a restaurant and construction is underway for McAllisters, Pizza Inn and Zaxby's restaurants.

"We feel the Oak Ridge market is under-served in terms of retail and feel very positive about the retailers we believe we can bring to this new center," Tim Sittema, a Crosland Southeast partner, said in the Chamber's release. "We look forward to being part of the retail market in Oak Ridge."

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