Developer releases master plan for Oak Ridge Mall

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Vacant buildings are basically all that's left of the Oak Ridge Mall. People living in the city go elsewhere to shop:

"I go out West, you know I go to Turkey Creek or off of Kingston Pike is where I usually go," said Holly Cowden.

In February, Crosland Souteast - a firm known for tackling tough development challenges - bought the mall. On Wednesday, it announced its master plan for the site.

"You have elements of retail, hospitality, hotel, office and residential all in one development - all masterplanned together in one entity. Very walkable, tree-lined streets. Very pedestrian friendly," said Ray Evans, an economic development consultant for the city of Oak Ridge.

The project is expected to bring roughly 1,000 jobs to the area and increase annual sales tax revenues by more than $2 million.

"People are struggling and they can't support their families without jobs, so that's why I think that it would be good to bring it in," said Richard Stuffs, who is excited for the project.

The project will cost between $80 and $90 million, with the developer paying for most of it.

The city is hoping to help pay for part of the project through a TIF plan, or tax increment financing plan. Basically that means once everything's done, property taxes are expected to go up and part of the increase will go towards paying for the project.

While most are excited for the plan:

"I think it's a good idea to have more shops and restaurants here in Oak Ridge, because there's not really a whole lot here right now," said Cowden.

Others have their doubts.

"They've been saying for the last 15 years they're going to do this, they're going to do this, they're going to do that. They should have already done it," said Lewis Smiddy.

The city's economic consultant said he understands the concern, but he's confident Crosland Southeast will turn the mall into a thriving city center, offering something for everyone.

Evans said everything but the Belk and JC Penny buildings will be demolished. He's not sure when work will begin, but said it could be as early as January.

There's no word yet on what new stores and restaurants are planning to open in the redeveloped mall.

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