development PROPOSALs announced

POSTED: March 8, 2022

Oak Ridge was born during the Manhattan Project without a centralized, mixed-use downtown. Over the decades, multiple plans have called for creating such a place - where Oak Ridgers can live, work and play! The Wilson Street corridor, bordering Main Street shopping near the new American Museum of Science & Energy (AMSE) location and easily accessible from the Turnpike and A.K. Bissell Park, provides a great opportunity to finally have a distinctive, uniquely Oak Ridge place for us to gather. The existence of a more urban environment, featuring apartments, condos, restaurants, local shops, offices and beautiful green space, will attract new and different businesses to Oak Ridge —helping to fortify our tax base.

In the fall of 2019, the City prepared a vision for a future Downtown, which was adopted in January 2020.  Following adoption, several important steps were taken in order to pave the way for private investment and development, including zoning changes, property acquisition and soliciting development. With zoning changes and property acquisition in place, on August 6, 2021, the Oak Ridge Land Bank held its “Toast the Town” event to announce a call for development proposals, (or Request for Proposals/RFP). Two excellent proposals were received in response to the RFP.


CLICK HERE for more information on the DOWNTOWN, D-1 ZONING


The Oak Ridge Land Bank (ORLB) recognized that having a plan was an important step, but land needed to be made available to encourage development.  ORLB gained control of a major section of vacant land at the eastern terminus of the planning area, and offered it for sale to be developed in accordance with the Wilson Street Vision.  Staff had spent the better part of two years raising awareness of the future opportunity and attempting to interest area developers in becoming engaged. Approximately 25 developers were contacted in person, via email and/or by phone.

In response to the ORLB RFP, two successful regional development firms submitted proposals to purchase and redevelop portions of the subject 6.5 acres.

Both proposals are extremely responsive to the intent of the RFP and the vision for Downtown Oak Ridge shown in the 2019 visioning document.

The guidelines for Downtown development call for urban, mixed-use, multi-story buildings, addressing the street in a form that creates attractive commercial space, a walkable environment, and a ‘neighborhood’ also conducive to urban residential development. Both proposals achieve these objectives, proposing multi-story buildings with street-level commercial space and upper story residential units. The joint master plan also envisions a common park/plaza area, widely considered critical to the success of Downtown, and a common, appropriately located parking lot. 


If realized, the combined development of the proposals would provide a significant jump-start to the development of the corridor. While not guaranteed, this level of activity would likely accelerate development and/or redevelopment of other nearby properties, and the continuation of the corridor’s metamorphosis into Downtown Oak Ridge.


The two development proposals include:
  • Purchase of approximately 3.5 acres;
  • Up to 57,000 SF of street level eating & drinking places, entertainment, retail and office space;
  • ~60-120 apartment and condominium residential units;
  • Retention of approximately 3.5 acres for public gathering, parking areas and future development.


Now that the developers have submitted offers and the ORLB has approved the proposals, the official process will include:
  • Board Actions - Board approved proposals at March 15, 2022 Board meeting;
  • Contracts - Sales/purchase contract language is being finalized and should be executed in the near future;
  • Due Diligence - Actions required by mutual agreement of Board and developers will be conducted on whatever schedule each requires, prior to closings on the properties;
  • Development – if all agreed-upon conditions are met and property purchases close, typical steps in the design and construction process will begin, with 2023 construction anticipated.

For questions or to request additional information, contact wblasius@oakridgetn.gov; 865-425-3531.

Learn more:

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.

Joe Minicozzi, Principal of Urban3, highlights the value of downtown development and the implications of different growth patterns on city coffers in the video below...
“Beginning with the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge was born without a distinct downtown,” explained Planning & 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.”

WUOT 91.9FM aired segments on the downtown development project in early December 2019. You can listen to the story or read it in full by clicking the links below:

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. 

You can also download and view a project overview by clicking here.


Questions about the new downtown planning process or any other Planning & Development project can be directed to the department by calling (865) 425-3531 or by emailing wblasius@oakridgetn.gov.