The nearly-vacant mall in Tennessee is in the hands of new owners, and they are planning a major redevelopment of the once vibrant property.RealtyLink has acquired the property at a price of $6.3 million. "We're very, very pleased that a developer of the stature of RealtyLink has come to Oak Ridge to turn a functionally obsolete property into a modern shopping area," said Steve Arnsdorff, a Chatanooga developer and a partner of property seller Oak Ridge City Center.
Demolition work is expected to begin immediately and work around existing tenants JCPenney and Belk. Both retailers are signed on for long-term leases, and their existing operations will not be impacted. Construction on the reborn mall is set to begin this Fall, with phase one of the project set to be completed in the Spring of 2017.
RealtyLink is excited about the possibilities for the Oak Ridge Mall, and their enthusiasm has been matched by a number of retailers that have already signed on the dotted line. New tenants will include TJ Maxx, Pet Smart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Rue 21 and Electronic Express. Phase one of the project alone is expected to cost an eye-popping $41 million.
The Oak Ridge Mall traces its roots back to the 1950s, and debuted as the Downtown Shopping Center with an outdoor format in 1955. New ownership acquired the property in the late 1980s and converted the property to an indoor mall with expanded floor area. Previous anchors included Goody’s Family Clothing, which succumbed to bankruptcy in 2009, Proffitt’s, a department store chain that was acquired by Belk’s, and Sears, which closed its location at the Oak Ridge Mall in 2012.
Today, JCPenney and Belk are the last links to what was previously a thriving retail destination. The redevelopment brings a new beginning to the property, which will be re-born under the name Main Street Oak Ridge. There were several flirtations from other developers before RealtyLink stepped up to the plate, and the city wasn’t about to let them walk away from what Mayor Warren Gooch has described as “the black hole in the heart of our city.”
The city is kicking in $1 million towards the cost of infrastructure improvements, and the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board is on the hook for an additional $500,000. With new ownership in place, a substantial investment from the city, and a long list of retailers set to climb on board, there’s a good chance that this redevelopment project will capture some of the former glory that the Oak Ridge Mall had to offer.