Oak Ridge residents share ideas, dreams for downtown development

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — City leaders are working to bring a downtown to the Secret City.

They’re hoping for shopping, eating and living space — all within walking distance. Life-long Oak Ridge residents say they’re ready to see some new sights.

“I’d love to see a rooftop bar,” Pat Postma said. She’s lived in Oak Ridge since the 1940s.

“It’s a community gathering place that we really need. A place where you can go, do fun things, but be sure you were going to see a lot of friends along the way,” Postma said.

Oak Ridge is known for many things, but it doesn’t have the reputation for being the most lively town. City leaders are hoping to change that.

“When the kids in the family leave high school … they don’t want to come back because it’s not as exciting as they want it to be,” Community Development Director Wayne Blasius said. “So we want to get those things that make it a fun place to be. We have a plan, we have commitment of the community and the leadership and now we have land available,”

The Oak Ridge Land Bank, has released a request for proposal for the purchase and development of a 6.5-acre vacant property on Wilson Street near Rice Road. The location has direct access to the Oak Ridge Turnpike, Rutgers Avenue, Wilson Street and Main Street East.

Now the city just needs developers to take notice.

“The developers that I’ve talked to talk a lot about residential,” Blasius said. “Residential is key. If you look at what happened in downtown Knoxville 15 or 20 years ago, once residential started to happen, there were people walking around looking for something to do and then businesses followed.”

City leaders are hoping the proposals start to come in around October. If all goes according to plan, construction could start in Oak Ridge a year from now.

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