OAK RIDGE (WATE) – After years of waiting, changes are now progressing rapidly at the site of the former Oak Ridge Mall. Phase one of the Main Street Oak Ridge project is already 75 percent complete. Chances are if you drive by the construction area, you’ll see something new being built each week.
The demolition of the former mall started in July. It’s been a project community members like Ruth Smiley have waited 20 years for.
“I like to shop in Oak Ridge, and it will be good to have new choices,” said Smiley.
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Mercedes Chandler, who lives in Oak Ridge, says she loves seeing the construction and is looking forward to shopping closer to home. Right now she drives to Knoxville to shop.
“With traffic and everything between there, it would be a lot more convenient if it was here in Oak Ridge,” said Chandler.
The old mall is being redeveloped into a 600,000 square foot mixed use retail space named “Main Street Oak Ridge.” Ray Evans, the city’s economic development consultant, says eight new stores are on track to open in late spring.
“So there’s Ulta, Rue 21, Maurice’s and Rack Room Shoes that will be next to Belk and construction has commenced on those as well,” said Evans.
Evans says the development will boost the local economy.
“The property values are going to go substantially higher than they were and the sales tax revenue should also be significant for both the city and the county,” said Evans.
Besides the new shops, community members look forward to more employment options.
“I think it will be really good and it will open up a lot of jobs for the community. It will not just be a convenience but really good for the town,” said Chandler.
Evans says many retailers are showing interest in opening at Main Street Oak Ridge. Right now he says he can’t release any other business names.
The eight new stores are Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, TJ Maxx, Ulta and Electronic Express, Maurice’s, Rack Room and Rue 21. Evans also says the hotel construction should start by the end of this month.