Plan drafted for new Oak Ridge downtown area


OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Plans for a downtown area in Oak Ridge proposed this week have some in the community excited for the growth.

Previous development plans have highlighted the need for a central downtown that can leverage new businesses and foster a stronger sense of identity and community; from the 1988 Comprehensive Plan, to the City Center Plan in 2000, and most recently in the 2019 Oak Ridge City Blueprint and amendments to the Main Street development plan.

When the Oak Ridge mall closed down, the city started work on a plan to build a corridor along Wilson Street, parallel to Oak Ridge Turnpike. Ideas include space for restaurants, shops, offices, apartments, condos and green space.

Sally Shipley, a 67-year resident of the Secret City said she is hopeful the plans are a sign of better things to come.

“Let them build it. Let them attract people so they can come and see what Oak Ridge has to offer,” Shipley said.

She remembers a different Oak Ridge than the one she lives in now and is happy about the potential for change and more people moving to the area.

“I think that it’s gonna encourage a lot of people to get out and take up some of the culture that we do have in Oak Ridge,” city resident Tina Rickman said.

The details of the plan are available online, but show a mixed-use walkable urban space.

“From a development standpoint, there are some kinds of development that won’t come at all to a suburban setting, but will to a urban walkable environment. So there are businesses we are missing out on because we don’t have that kind of place for them,” Wayne Blasius, the Oak Ridge Community Development Director, said.

According to the city’s website for the project, work is underway to try and make property available to developers, for projects achieving the vision for Wilson Street. 

The goal is that by 2021 the city could begin taking requests for proposals.

Again, the plan as it stands right now, is in a proposal draft period — the work is just beginning.

We will continue to follow the development of this story of the city’s plans.

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