Two developers have submitted plans featuring apartments, businesses and a park area for an area near Oak Ridge’s Wilson Street.
The Oak Ridge Land Bank manages the land involved. No decisions have been made yet, but Oak Ridge’s Cappiello Real Estate and Knoxville’s Machinations have submitted proposals. At a Land Bank work session on Feb. 22, Wayne Blasius, Oak Ridge Planning and Development Department director, said “blending the two proposals” is a “smarter route” than just doing one of them. He gave a shorter version of the presentation he and the developers gave to the Land Bank to the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board on March 7.
Blasius, after the Industrial Development Board meeting, told The Oak Ridger the Land Bank is scheduled to vote on the issue at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, and can decide whether to accept one, both or neither of the proposals.
“A heart for the community. A place that we could gather, you know, and when the high school wins the state championship, when we have various celebrations, it’s a place that we turn out together,” Blasius told Land Bank regarding his idea for Wilson Street, which he has described as a downtown area.
The proposals both involve parcels near South Rutgers Avenue and the Kume restaurant. However, they stretch beyond Wilson Street. At the meeting, Blasius promoted a proposal that would give Oak Ridge’s Cappiello Real Estate the parcels closer to Kume where Wilson Street meets Rutgers Avenue to develop.
An open space would, under this proposal, sit in between this property and a set of parcels, to be developed in phases by Machinations of Knoxville. Both Machinations and Cappiello are interested in developing multi-story apartment or condominium-type buildings, but with commercial establishments like breweries, restaurants, bowling alleys, retail stores or restaurants on the first floor. Parking would be behind this area.
The open space, to be called Spallation Neutron Source Park, might host a live music performance venue, Blasius and the other presenters said. It would be about the size of Knoxville’s Market Square.
The combined proposals, Blasius said, involve about 57,000 square feet of eating and drinking places, entertainment, retail and office space, in addition to about 60 to 120 apartments and condominiums.
Blasius said the Land Bank may need to find grants, partners or other “creative funding sources” for Spallation Neutron Source Park.
The two developers talked about their visions and showed renderings of some of their ideas.
Joshua Wright of Machinations talked at length about the apartments in his plan.
“The suburban sprawl formula eats up too many resources,” Wright said.
At the same time, he said, many apartments with “anonymous hallways” don’t really have an inviting feel the way that front porches do. He said for that reason, his proposed apartment building would face the park with the parking lot more of an “alley” behind it. Also, the building would have “exterior” corridors, which are open air.
The proposed building would have various living options, he said. These options would include penthouse corner units, efficiency one-bedroom apartments, micro two-bedroom apartments and more “normal sized” two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. The phase one building would be three to six stories depending on pre-sales. He said he is hoping to attract retail businesses of some sort to the building’s bottom stories, but even if he can’t, he said, he would make it to where the space could be converted for that purpose. He said he might go for larger buildings in future stages.
Tony Cappiello presented on behalf of his company.
“My family’s been here since 1943,” he said. He said in Oak Ridge’s early days it brought in people from ages 20s to 40s, with community activities such as tennis court dances in and near Jackson Square.
“I don’t see a lot of 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds in the room,” he told the Land Bank board members. He said frequently people go through the Oak Ridge school system and leave for college, but do not come back.
“Where’s the community? Where’s the fun?” he asked with regard to present-day Oak Ridge.
Like Wright, Cappiello said he wanted to build multi-story buildings, with commercial space on the bottom.
He said he is interested in “trying to bring in new concepts that haven’t been here.” He said as a result, he wants to have a price that is reasonable for sole proprietors and start-ups. He and his architect, Scott Busby with AIA, said they are interested in possibly attracting a brewery or a bowling alley.
Busby said he is interested in a futuristic “Jetsons” type appearance to the buildings.
“Nothing’s set in stone. These are just ideas,” he said. He said outdoor seating for restaurants looking toward Spallation Neutron Source Park is something in which he is interested.
“The idea is to have fun with it. Make it unique to Oak Ridge and make it something that people want to live in and visit every day,” he said.
He talked at length about the park, describing possible children’s activities, a statue, a rowboat-shaped bike rack, a pavilion for performances and lights that would resemble spallation neutron beams along the park’s sidewalks.
Blasius estimated, in an email to The Oak Ridger, that the developers must bring in at least $900,000 to cover the mortgage obligation, interest and transaction costs of the Oak Ridge Land Bank for the land.
“The Oak Ridge Land Bank does not have funds earmarked to subsidize this project, so the sale of parcels for development is assumed to generate sufficient revenue to repay the ORLB on its mortgage and related expenses for the property it purchased and offered for development,” he stated.
Ben Pounds is a staff reporter for The Oak Ridger. Call him at (865) 441-2317, email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Bpoundsjournal.