Oak Ridge Main Street in the 1990s consisted mostly of an enclosed shopping mall, but that retail destination fell on hard times about 10 years into its run. Today, the mall is 90 percent demolished and only two tenants are still doing business in that downtown area – Belk and JC Penney.
But Main Street in 2018 is enjoying a major resurgence, with about $100 million in capital being invested right in the center of town. The first phase of redevelopment is already complete and features 500,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space now open, including such tenants as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Electronics Express, Maurices, PetSmart, Rack Room Shoes, Rue 21, TJ Maxx and Ulta.
“Basically, we have a brand new downtown,” says Parker Hardy, president/CEO of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. “The new Main Street Oak Ridge is designed to be pedestrian-friendly with retail, restaurants, a town center, hotel and apartments. This growing district is unlike anything that has been built in East Tennessee to date.”
An 81-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott is under construction, and 200 apartment units are also being built. In addition, the American Museum of Science & Energy, an Oak Ridge mainstay since the end of World War II, is moving into the Main Street project area as well.
“Main Street will become a significant draw for retail shoppers as well as a place to live for young families, millennials and seniors,” Hardy says. “Once all the construction is finished, about 1,000 new jobs will be added to the economy and around $2 million in annual sales tax revenue.”