The first part of the Main Street Oak Ridge project is on track for a late summer finish.
Construction crews are hard at work completing phase one of the shopping center. TJ Maxx and Dick's Sporting Goods are expected to be some of the first stores to open by late May or early June.
Other stores like Ulta, Maurices, Rack Room Shoes, Rue21, PetSmart and Electronics Express are expected to be done by late summer.
"In the last year, year-and-a-half, things are coming back to Oak Ridge as they should have been years ago," said Ray Evans, economic development consultant for the city of Oak Ridge.
A second phase will include smaller shops, restaurants, a retail/residential complex and a Marriott hotel. Evans said that phase will also include moving the American Museum of Science and Energy from its present site to the Main Street Oak Ridge project.
The project now stands where a downtown shopping center once stood in the 1950s. The site later became home to the Oak Ridge Mall in the 1980s. Evans said the mall began spiraling downhill like many others across the country.
"We've been in a quandary retail-wise for the last 10 or 15 years," he said.
The Main Street Oak Ridge project has been in the works since 2012, and the construction is a welcome site after the lot has sat mostly unused in years past.
"We've struggled for many, many years in trying to determine what we were going to do with this property," said Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. "It became a black hole in the center of our city."
Gooch said the city is looking forward to making the site profitable and benefiting from the sales tax revenue it will bring in to support city and county schools.
"People have been waiting for something exciting to happen in the center city," he said. "It's taking us to the next level."
Anchor stores like Belk and J.C. Penney have stuck it out through the construction and are open for business, but Evans said he's looking forward to seeing the Main Street Oak Ridge project completed so it can serve retail needs in the city and surrounding counties.
"Folks in even Fentress County, Morgan County, Scott County, Roane," Evans said. "I have a friend in Crossville that asks me every time I see her, 'When are these stores going to be open so I can come shop?'"
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