OR Council OKs downtown ‘vision’

Last week, the Oak Ridge City Council approved a vision for downtown Oak Ridge along the Wilson Street Corridor.

The proposal was recommended by city staff and was unanimously approved by the Council.

City leaders say that since Oak Ridge was originally designed without a downtown area at its heart, that has made it harder to attract residents and retailers. Envisioned in preliminary plans is an area not unlike Market Square in downtown Knoxville, featuring a blend of residential options, restaurants, bars, office space and retailers, as well as green space. Officials also say that any development will focus in large part on pedestrian activity, and connecting the Wilson Street corridor to the rest of the city, including nearby Main Street Oak Ridge.

The city says that private developers will lead the charge, and that they will try and attract those developers to the area by hosting a “Paint The Town” event this spring to showcase the Wilson Street corridor and its potential for growth.

“Paint the Town” will be held on May 9th, with “food, entertainment, music, activities and tons of excitement over the future of Oak Ridge,” according to a Facebook page for the event..
More details will be added as plans are finalized, according to the announcement, which you can read more of here.

(From the Oak Ridge website) Back in late October, the City of Oak Ridge and its Community Development Department presented possibilities for the mixed-use redevelopment of the Wilson Street Corridor. The community was invited to view the presentation, which used data compiled over several years of study and public engagement focused on the needs of Oak Ridge residents, business owners, and visitors.

The City of Oak Ridge secured grant funding for this project under an agreement with the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and coordinated through the regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) for the purposes of envisioning a new “Downtown Oak Ridge.” The goal of the study was to explore what could be along the Wilson Street corridor, including multi-story, mixed-use development adjacent to the ongoing retail redevelopment of Main Street Oak Ridge. This location will serve as a catalyst for new and expanded growth.

“Beginning with the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge was born without a distinct downtown,” explained Community Development Director Wayne Blasius. “We worked with local stakeholders and a team of highly-skilled economists, engineers and architectural designers to create a vision of how this could be put into motion.”

Over the years, multiple plans have highlighted the need for a central downtown that can leverage new development 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.

The ideas were guided by traffic analysis and land use projections for the Oak Ridge market. The City of Oak Ridge and its Industrial Development Board have already improved Wilson Street by resurfacing the roadway and upgrading the curb, gutter, drainage system, and underground utilities.

The final examples for the new downtown work included a mix of retail, restaurant, residential, and/or office uses with an attractive streetscape and pedestrian connectivity.

Additional renderings and information on the downtown possibilities can be found in the Municipal Building lobby area near the atrium. You can also download and view a project overview by clicking here.
Questions about the new downtown planning process or any other Community Development project can be directed to the department by calling (865) 425-3531 or by emailing .vemery@oakridgetn.gov

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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