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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER A 2030 STRATEGY


“ Oak Ridge, where great things happen everyday.� Warren Gooch, Mayor, Oak Ridge

November, 2018 Welcome to Oak Ridge, 2030 The intent of this City Center 2030 Strategy for Oak Ridge is to explore ways to accommodate a new generation of housing, build a vibrant, walkable urban district and offer retail, food, entertainment and cultural venues that attract the next generation of Oak Ridgers. As the major employers in the community, we would like to see a City Center that appeals to our young professional staff as a place to live and raise their families. This study was initiated to stimulate conversation, debate and future investment. The City, the landowners and the residents need to come together around concepts for a stronger and more vibrant City Center. We are encouraging the City to take a more holistic approach to planning and directing investments to the lands that sit in the very center of Oak Ridge. Together, the City, the community and employers can script a vision that shifts the future of Oak Ridge toward a more compact and walkable, mixed use City. In addition, we are suggesting an approach that will improve the ecology, the tax base and the livability of Oak Ridge. We hope that this effort inspires discussions and actions. Sincerely, Dr. Thomas Zacharia Laboratory Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Morgan Smith President and CEO, CNS Y-12 Ken Rueter President and CEO, UCOR Andy Page President and CEO, Oak Ridge Associated Universities

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill would like to thank: Oak Ridge National Laboratory Leigha Humphries Protocol and Community Relations Manager David M. Keim Director, Communications

Patrick McMillan Jane Shelton Benjamin Stephens Steve Whitson Todd Wilson

Dr. Mohammad A Khaleel Associate Laboratory Director

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Tom Rogers Director, Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development Jeff Smith Deputy for Operations Dr. Thomas Zacharia Laboratory Director CNS Y-12 Morgan Smith President and CEO UCOR Ken Rueter President and CEO The City of Oak Ridge Wayne Blasius Community Development Director Kelly Duggan Senior Planner Ray Evans Consultant Mayor Warren L. Gooch Mayor, City of Oak Ridge Steve Jones Consultant Nathalie Schmidt Senior Planner Mark S. Watson Oak Ridge City Manager Oak Ridge City Council Kelly Callison Rick Chinn, Jr. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Dodson Derrick Hammond Chuck Hope Ellen Smith Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission Jim Dodson Zabrina Gregg Charlie Hensley Sharon Kohler Claudia Lever

Scott Poole, FAIA Dean, College of Architecture + Design James Richard Rose, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Distinguished Lecturer, Director of Institute for Smart Structures The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Parker Hardy President and CEO Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Andy Page President and CEO Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge Jeremy Biggs Administrator James Lima Planning + Development James F. Lima President Other Participants Darrell Akins Akins Public Strategies Tom Beehan Former Mayor of Oak Ridge, Chair, Housing Development Corporation Trey Benefield LA, Benefield Planning Design & Management David Bradshaw Pinnacle Bank Jim Campbell East TN Economic Council Ryan Chinn R&R Properties Marc DeRose Former President, Explore Oak Ridge The late Gary Gilmartin Gilmartin Engineering Works Chris King, AIA Smee-Busby Architects (current designers of K25 Museum) Emily Palmer & Jacene Phillips, AIA Studio 4 Design (current designers of the Oak Ridge Preschool and Senior Center) Josh Wright, AIA GC; Architects Wright (exploring Oak Ridge housing development) 5


OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Employers, whether corporations, institutions or innovating start-ups, look to downtowns as places that can recruit the next generation of talent.

Multi-Family Neighborhood Business General Business Industrial Neighborhood Centers: A.

Education

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Administration

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Shopping/ Commercial

1947 Oak Ridge City Master Plan

The 1940s The City of Oak Ridge is a nationally significant example of building a 20th century community. Oak Ridge is a city with a purpose. It was built during the war to house the operating and scientific personnel working in support of the Manhattan Project. It was rapidly built in the 1940s to offer a home to the thousands of workers who committed their skills and knowledge to the defense of the United States and advancing scientific knowledge and innovation. After the war, it transitioned from a sprawling war-built town with many temporary buildings to a permanent city to cater to the needs of a normal city 6

adjacent to ORNL. The Oak Ridge built in that era was made up of a series of neighborhoods, local hubs and a City Center laid out between ridges, forests and water. The planning theory underlying the design of City of Oak Ridge became the precedent for most of the postwar development in the country. However, neighborhoods were dispersed and the City Center was separated and not walkable.


Today, 2018 Today the Oak Ridge area remains a global center of research and knowledge in energy and defense technology which attracts some of the most talented people from around the world to work here. Now in its 75th year, the City of Oak Ridge itself has grown and matured through the post-war and Cold War-era and into the early 21st Century. These eras have been marked by the dominance of the automobile on development patterns, an almost continuous evolution in the retail sector and new preferences for housing choices with every generation. Oak Ridge, and its City Center in particular, have been impacted by these forces and have been slow to adjust to evolving markets. The Next Generation As Oak Ridge thinks about its future, it must address, capture and reflect some of the trends and opportunities playing out in cities and communities across the United States. Smaller scale emphasis, walkable places, mixed use and diversity in housing is critical. There is a national focus on housing growth in urban areas, as both older and younger people seek the activity, vibrancy and walkability which comes from city living. Housing choices are a key factor. Entertainment, food and beverage and arts and culture inevitably follow these markets. Underpinning all of this is a desire for people to spend less time in their cars and have an improved quality of life.

Quality of Place This shift has played out in large cities, regional hub cities and in small downtowns across the country – with many unique and diverse responses to the nature of each place. However, there is one single thread which is reflected everywhere – which is the quality of place experienced by people. Quality of place is what ultimately drives economic growth. We are also in an era of major shifts in how people live, work and play, with a 21st Century focus on downtowns, interesting food scenes and walkable city centers. There is now a major opportunity to leverage that energy, and also the commitment of local partners, to make the Oak Ridge City Center a competitive destination in the region and an economic driver for the City. Creating a stronger City Center Implementation of the following will create a stronger City Center. •

Strengthen the retail and entertainment experience for residents and visitors

Bring new types of housing into the market to meet the needs of its current and future residents

Attract workers from surrounding institutions to support the business base

Attract the next generation of highskilled workers and residents to Oak Ridge

Provide new amenities and services for the citizens of Oak Ridge

Maximize the value of public and private assets

Enhance the tax base for the City

Strengthen the environmental framework of creeks, parks and trails 7


OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

This document has been prepared by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the City to use in alignment with the City Blueprint planning process. These are observations and suggestions to leverage the opportunities at hand in the City of Oak Ridge. The Oak Ridge City Center 2030 Strategy will hopefully be used by the City Council and administration as it works with the community, businesses and land-owners to coordinate public and private investments.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

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Clustered mixed-use development, local streets and an expanded park system add up to guide a new vision for Oak Ridge’s City Center and its neighborhoods. An estimated 3,000 to 8,000 residents could live within the reenvisioned City Center.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Oak Ridge City Center presents an opportunity to rethink the commercial core of the city as a walkable, vibrant place to live, work, shop and learn. O ak

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The City Center is located at the intersection of Oak Ridge Turnpike and South Illinois Avenue (Highway 62) – both of which are major traffic routes through the region. This is a large area, encompassing a variety of retail outlets, hotels, restaurants, a movie theater, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), schools, civic facilities, the American Museum of Science and Energy and Bissell Park, and a small amount of housing.

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Retail in the City Center is intended to serve residents from across the city and also capture passing trade from surrounding highways. This has impacted the design and nature of the place created, with the emphasis on auto access and large, high visibility parking lots rather than a compact, walkable character. The auto-oriented character and form weakens the identity of Oak Ridge. This can be rethought with a City Center of distinct places connected by walking.


“There is urgency for leaders to act to identify ways for Oak Ridge to address where it is losing out to West Knoxville communities and elsewhere. Some of the concerns include: • The lack of housing choices available in Oak Ridge. • The high percentage of the City’s housing that is old. • The lack of newly constructed housing in Oak Ridge. In my opinion, addressing these issues will make Oak Ridge more competitive as a community of choice and should be integral to the planning and implementation strategy for the future planning of the City Center.” - James Lima, Planning + Development Advisor

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Oak Ridge National Laboratory anticipates growth in the next 5 years and will be competing globally for talent TENNESSEE, STATEWIDE

5%

6,346,105 to 6,651,149 MORRISTOWN 29,137 to 29,663

2% 35 min OAK RIDGE 29,330 to 29,350

KNOXVILLE 178,874 to 186,239

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MARYVILLE 27,465 to 28,703

SEVIERVILLE 14,807 to 16,665

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5% Population growth in towns, 2010-2015

Source: US Census 2016 population estimate. * Knoxville Regional Travel Model Update 2012, Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Project population and employment growth by County.

The City of Oak Ridge is part of a wider nine-county region and the “Oak Ridge Corridor” of emerging innovation. This region as a whole has experienced significant jobs and population growth in recent years and is projected to see more. Knoxville is the largest city and anchors the region. Oak Ridge is one of a collection of larger cities in the region, with approximately 30,000 residents.

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There is a growing market which Oak Ridge could tap into and play a stronger role within. Farragut, for example, has seen growth in population of 8% between 2010 and 2015.


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The Oak Ridge City Center today is made up of over 400 acres, 34% of which is surface parking. There is a great opportunity for inďŹ ll, higher density housing and urban vibrancy.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Revitalized “Main Street”

Vacant big box retail south of Illinois Ave

Poplar Creek - An undervalued waterway near Illinois Ave

Bissell Park - A great asset for the City

The Manhattan Apartments - A post-war apartment complex in need of infill and restoration

Culture, legacy, international friendship Bell

It is clear that Oak Ridge City Center today is facing a series of overlapping challenges: •

Retail trends nationally are challenging the types of retail the City Center has hosted – apparel, appliances, bulk goods and stand-alone department stores are all challenged by on-line shopping and desire for local retailers.

Groceries, food and beverage, entertainment and culture can all be strengthened.

The City Center has weak pedestrian connections. The super block development lacks the local street network that supports walking.

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People want to have multiple experiences close together in a walkable place, while the City Center is fragmented by large parking lots and a collection of private streets and parking access lanes.

Land is organized into large parcels, which creates a lack of development flexibility.

Retail and restaurant vacancies send a message that this is not a thriving place.


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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Urban neighborhoods

There are strategic shifts that can be leveraged to create a vibrant City Center:

A great natural setting for the City as a whole.

A highly accessible regional location .

Growth in nearby jobs – with a demand for housing options.

The land area is large enough for innovative redevelopment.

A shift in how people want to live, work and commute favoring City Centers such as downtown Knoxville, Asheville, and Chattanooga.

A new development approach can define, encourage and steer investment to intensification, infill development and reconfiguration of development opportunities.

A diverse collection of retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, recreation, administration and jobs in proximity to each other.

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Strengths

Opportunities

Excellent city amenities

Create new housing stock in the City with a price point between $180,000.00 $280,000.00

School system Police and fire protection Parks and recreation Library Healthcare facilities Cultural organizations Visibility generated by National Park status Close proximity to major employers

Increase rental properties for the City’s median income (+) population Focus on intense neighborhood revitalization - Areas where there are “Good Bones” provide opportunities for some fixes Areas where there are “Bad Bones” provide opportunities for total makeovers

Small, close-knit community that welcomes newcomers and diversity

Look at additional independent living options for people looking for locations where their needs can be met in close proximity to their homes (aged, disabled, ill, etc.) – Perhaps close to the Guest House/Alexander Inn

Weaknesses

Provide additional gathering spaces for all ages (Jackson Square, Grove Center, etc.)

Resurgent retail/restaurant availability Momentum from “Not In Our City” initiatives

Unmet need for new housing stock, especially in the $180,000 – $280,000 range Lack of available financing or new construction

Partner with the Oak Ridge Housing Authority to improve low income housing and eliminate blight via the Housing Authority’s statutory powers

Unmet need for rental properties in the $900-$1,200 per month range

Threats

Too many older neighborhoods with very small homes valued at less than $100,000

Not enough tax revenues to maintain current City services

Perception that the city neighborhoods are run down and old with no curb appeal

Complete blight of MDO area

Perception that Oak Ridge housing is more expensive than West Knoxville competitors Very limited retail shopping and restaurants (although this is quickly changing) Limited places for friends and families to gather

Continued growth of West Knoxville communities to supply housing desired by today’s families - Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Housing Report 2017

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Cities and Their Downtowns

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“A city, built from scratch in 1942, Oak Ridge has just celebrated its 75th year. It is a time of great energy and growth in the broader region and an opportunity for Oak Ridge to realize a vibrant, mixed use center as the city’s focal point, its new address and its new identity.” - Phil Enquist, FAIA

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Objectives for Creating a City Center

A new vision of the Oak Ridge City Center can provide the greatest opportunity to capture investment and energize the community.

The City should work with stakeholders, land owners, local employers, Council members and regional developers to understand the issues faced and create a refined set of objectives for Oak Ridge City Center through the Blueprint plan process.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Objectives

1. Vision

2. Framework

CREATE A VIBRANT CITY CENTER

EXTEND STREETS AS ACTIVE, WALKABLE CONNECTIONS

Oak Ridge City Center can introduce new uses to increase overall intensity and density. A go-to destination that can attract nearby residents and workers, and capture passing highway trade.

Growth can be concentrated in a collection of linked walkable places, along well designed two-lane streets. Each place can combine a focused role, and a mix of uses within a 5 minute walk.

The experience can extend activity beyond normal shopping hours based around a walkable, active street scene and places to meet and gather, and an emphasis on local food. Higher density housing options should be provided.

Narrow local streets with continuous sidewalks should be introduced throughout the city, creating smaller development blocks.

5. Ecology

6. Open Space

CONNECT CITY CENTER TO NATURAL ASSETS

REINVIGORATE AND ACTIVATE BISSELL PARK

Oak Ridge is characterized by the interplay of neighborhoods with natural assets. Nearby access to ridges, woods, glades, creeks and rivers make this a highly livable community. The City Center also has nearby natural assets which can be connected through new pedestrian and bike links and enhanced way-finding. This network can raise quality of life for residents and create new connections to and from the City Center.

Bissell Park can be programmed through careful and targeted investments to make it more accessible from the rest of the City Center, enhancing paths and trails to encourage exercise, renewing the landscape and upgrading facilities to support local and regional special events, festivals and performance.

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3. Development

4. Sustainability

EXPAND CITY CENTER AS A COLLECTION OF MIXED-USE PLACES

CONTINUE OAK RIDGE’S LEGACY OF INNOVATION

Progress is being made on the Main Street project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall as a mixed-use development that includes retailers, restaurants, and residential units. A new collection of stores, businesses, a hotel and restaurants have recently opened or are scheduled for construction. There is potential new development being planned on the AMSE museum site.

After 75 years as a modern, master planned city, Oak Ridge is facing a new generation of regional competitiveness which is an opportunity to rethink the city’s central business district, its identity associated with energy and efficiencies, and its building technologies. Oak Ridge and employers together can explore and demonstrate emerging technologies. The city can be a show case for what is to come.

7. Guidelines

8. Next Steps

THE CITY CENTER AS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE

IDENTIFY SHORT-TERM PROJECTS TO BUILD MOMENTUM

The City Center can be a place to live. New types of housing can meet today’s market demands. This could include single family homes, town-homes and apartments, and condominiums. Simple and clear guidelines can influence future developments to increase livability.

There are some initial areas that could be “start up” projects. •

Revisioning Bissell Park, continuing the momentum of the Friendship Bell installation

The redevelopment of the AMSE site for housing and extension of Badger Ave to Rutgers through the City Center

Infill on portions of Wilson St.

Infill on portions of ORAU campus

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

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SOM estimates 3,000 to 8,000 residents could live within the City Center

1. Vision The City can lead holistic discussions with landowners, and community members around long range visions for the City Center. The Blueprint process is the beginning of this conversation. The vision needs to include a new approach to mixing land uses, rethinking current zoning, and leveraging existing assets. Public workshops, design charrettes, and presentations should begin in 2019 to start the conversations.

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“It is important for local leaders to work with the public and private sectors at all levels to encourage investment in and support for downtowns. Investing in downtowns delivers powerful benefits for the city and the region.� - International Downtown Association

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

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Existing City Center road framework

2. Framework The current road network within the City Center is minimal and made up of few local public streets combined with fast moving wide arterials and many surface parking lots. Minimal sidewalks and minimal landscape create a rather unwalkable environment. Large development blocks are defined by this street framework, which makes it difficult to create small scale infill development.

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Create a walkable urban framework

New north-south and east-west two lane streets should be created that are paired with landscape and continuous sidewalks. This framework will organize future mixed use infill development.

As lands are redeveloped, the street network can be introduced incrementally. A unifying plan is required to guide the street locations.

This new generation of local streets can provide better pedestrian access to shopping, parks, recreation and neighborhoods.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

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A collection of connected, walkable places in the City Center

Walkability

Shaded streets

Active uses along the sidewalks

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As the City Center evolves over the next decade, there can be a conscious focus on achieving walkability. Retail and mixed-use buildings can engage pedestrians and have strong street presence. Creating clear and safe pedestrian connections between places is a priority.

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Expand the City Center as a collection of mixed-use places

Urban neighborhoods

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Guide future growth to create mixed-uses places with distinctive identities

Public places for Oak Ridgers

3. Development Future development is encouraged to have an emphasis on urban, higher density residential that offers a variety of amenities to attract the next generation of residents to Oak Ridge. In addition, future workplace, expanded retail, cultural amenities, entertainment and food are all encouraged.

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The design of new developments can be encouraged to bring great contemporary architecture to Oak Ridge. Surface parking should be minimized as the district densifies and parking structure below buildings or in mixed use garages should start to be introduced.


Encourage front balconies

Local two lane street

Residential

Retail / Mixed-Use

Parking Parking below-grade or concealed from street

Poplar Creek as a new public park

Front gardens

Potential Poplar Creek neighborhood street Development, streets and public open spaces work together to create high quality places.

Green roofs

Local two lane street

Residential

Work Lofts/Office

Retail / Mixed-Use

Retail / Mixed-Use

Parking

Parking Parking below-grade Encourage active ground-floor uses

Set build-to lines, or minimize allowable setbacks

Potential extended “Badger Avenue” thru the Main Street Project

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Emerging Districts

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Bringing Existing and Future Retail Together at Main Street

Creating a Mixed-Use Neighborhood on the Former AMSE and ORAU Properties

Retailing is strongest when stores cluster together. The redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall location between Tulane Ave. and Rutgers Ave. is gaining momentum. The Oak Ridge Main Street project provides an anchor location for future retail development. This location can continue to have the greatest concentration of retail.

Create a mixed-use district with housing, food and entertainment at the intersection of Tulane Ave and Badger Ave. The neighborhood is located within easy walking distance from the Civic Center, City administration, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Pollard Technology Conference Center, hotels and Bissell Park. This is a place which can support new housing, dining, and provide a before or after movie dining option.

Focus on Badger Ave. and Wilson St. and create infill opportunities along these two streets.

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This area also can allow for a Badger Ave. right of way to connect to Tulane Ave. In addition, a new, pedestrian entry into Bissell Park can be created.


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ORAU CAMPUS

InďŹ lling Housing on Rutgers Ave

Creating a Mixed-Use Gateway District

Existing housing on Rutgers Avenue can be renewed where feasible. Opportunities for infill development between buildings and selective replacement can be used where needed. Ensure integration between revived and new housing to create an attractive and desirable neighborhood. New local streets can create connections between neighborhoods.

A mixed-use district can announce to the City Center on South Illinois Avenue. A cluster of smaller mixed-use buildings with housing can join existing businesses to define a new node of activity at the intersections of Illinois Ave., Badger Ave., Bissell Park and the ORAU Campus.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Poplar Creek, A New Neighborhood

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South of Illinois Ave., a potential new urban district Major Land Owners - 2018

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South of Illinois Ave. oers a tremendous opportunity for innovative redevelopment and an expanded public park system. A New Poplar Creek Neighborhood A reinvented retail, work place and residential neighborhood could be created south of South Illinois Avenue. Existing businesses can be incorporated or relocated within this district to create a more cohesive, walkable district.

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This neighborhood can be the largest addition to the City Center. This neighborhood can capture regional demand for housing for Oak Ridge, enhance the local labor supply for employers and support the retail, dining, entertainment and cultural amenities of the City Center. The center piece of this new district would be an open, accessible Poplar Creek. This land area today makes up approximately 100 acres. It has great potential for an urban, yet green, district for living and working.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

City Center Redevelopment Benchmarks

Bend, Oregon Population: 79,000

Dubuque, Iowa Population: 58,000

Emporia, Kansas Population: 25,000

Roanoke, Virginia Population: 98,000

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Over time, all communities experience changes that affect the industries, technologies, and land use patterns that help form the foundation of their local economies. Economically resilient towns, cities, and regions adapt to changing conditions and even reinvent their economic bases if necessary. While most economic development strategies involve some effort to recruit major employers, such as manufacturers or large retailers, many successful small towns and cities complement recruitment by emphasizing their existing assets and distinctive resources. This EPA study examined case studies of small towns and cities that have successfully used this approach, including: • • • • • • •

Bend, Oregon (population 79,000) Douglas, Georgia (population 12,000) Dubuque, Iowa (population 58,000) Emporia, Kansas (population 25,000) Mount Morris, New York (population 2,900) Paducah, Kentucky (population 25,000) Roanoke, Virginia (population 98,000)

While no magic bullet or set process will work everywhere, these case studies illustrate several successful tactics that other communities can use:

Identify and build on existing assets. Assets might include natural beauty and outdoor recreation, historic downtowns, or arts and cultural institutions.

Engage all members of the community to plan for the future. Engage residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to develop a vision for the community’s future.

Take advantage of outside funding. Even a small amount of outside funding applied strategically to support a community’s vision and plans can help increase local interest.

Create incentives for redevelopment, and encourage investment in the community.

Encourage cooperation within the community and across the region.

Support a clean and healthy environment. Invest in natural assets by protecting natural resources and cleaning up and redeveloping polluted properties.

All of the above case study cities worked to revitalize and beautify their downtowns. A downtown center of activity is an important part of the foundation of many local economies.

Small towns and cities can use local assets to revitalize their economies... - www.epa.gov/smartgrowth US EPA Office of Sustainable Communities

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

This redevelopment effort can be one of Tennessee’s first large scale carbon neutral precincts. A collaboration with research institutions could lead to an innovative energy, water, waste and building material exploration.

Urban wetlands at Pearl District, Portland, Oregon 40


4. Sustainability The effort to define a new path for the Oak Ridge City Center can have sustainability and energy efficiency as a high priority in all future development decisions. The City Center district can:

At the scale of the City there are many initiatives that are common sense thinking toward energy efficiency, including: •

Compact city districts and denser residential communities

Mixed use land use patterns

Walking and bicycling

Shaded and green city districts

Reduce the daily energy demand required

Recycle and export more water than what is required

Accessible recreation trails within natural systems

Manage waste and divert waste from landfills

Renewable energy sources and district energy systems

Deliver a healthy, more urban environment

Better building envelopes and materials

Experimentation with building technologies

Offer alternatives to the individual car to get to work

On site storm water retention

Introduce the next generation of advanced building materials

Introducing transit

Exploring renewable energy

Partner with research institutions on future sustainable strategies

Oak Ridge is encouraged to partner with communities and organizations where they can participate, collaborate, share knowledge and drive measurable actions on energy, resource efficiency and building technology. The City of Oak Ridge should search for outside funding to support sustainable initiatives.

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Ten Techniques for making cities more walkable: 1. Put cars in their place 2. Mix the uses 3. Get parking right 4. Let transit work 5. Protect the pedestrian 6. Welcome bikes 7. Shape the spaces 8. Plant trees 9. Make friendly and unique building faces 10. Pick your winners (you can’t do everything) - Kaid Benfield, Director, Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council

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5. Ecology The City Center can benefit from a celebration and rediscovery of the ecological systems that pass thru this area. In the past, many of the creeks and waterways have been piped and channelized. All waterways should be studied and discussed. Incorporating wetlands, native plantings and restoring habitats will make the City Center more appealing to residents.

Pairing waterways with trail systems will only increase the identification of Oak Ridge residents with their local ecology. Woodlands, and urban wilderness areas should be reintroduced where possible. Landscapes can shift from mowed lawns and exotic plantings to a more native palette of plant materials. Bissell Park can increase its ecological mission as it’s landscape is managed.

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6. Open Space The Oak Ridge City Center has a substantial amount of open space but only Bissell Park is a public park. This park is a great asset to the community and should be revisited in its design and its programming. It has beautiful landscape but it has potential to be a great draw to the community. Across the Turnpike are the recreation fields for the High School. At some point these large open spaces could be linked together by a pedestrian bridge over the Turnpike.

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As the City Center develops, new small parks can be introduced to create focal points to new neighborhoods. Children gardens, food growing gardens, dog parks, could all be introduced. South of South Illinois Ave. Poplar Creek should be studied to see how to add it to the public park system.


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7. Guidelines The following abbreviated guidelines are just a few of many suggestions of some of the key characteristics for future buildings and public spaces within a newly defined City Center.

A High Quality Pedestrian Environment A new generation of local, two lane streets are encouraged with well defined sidewalks, plantings, shade, and furnishings to support walking. Street trees and seasonal plantings are encouraged. Retail Responding to the Public Realm The best retail environments define a high quality public realm and activate the street scene. Retail should avoid a large field of surface parking in front of their stores and collaborate to design well placed parking. Ground floors should be very transparent and well lit in the evenings. Cafes and restaurants opening up dining to the street is also encouraged.

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“Oak Ridge is blessed with limitless amenities that make day-to-day living a pleasure. Safe neighborhoods, award-winning schools, top-notch healthcare and a traditional sense of community, make Oak Ridge the perfect environment to nurture a family or to nest for retirement.� - Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

New Residential Buildings Higher density multi-family housing should have mixed use and active ground floors. Residential buildings should not be gated compounds or surrounded by surface parking. A mix of height, materials, roof forms would offer diversity and distinct character. The Urban Townhome Townhomes offer a higher density residential building type yet stay in a three story range and are complementary with adjacent single family neighborhoods. They do well defining walkable streets, offering housing with private gardens and separate garages off of alleys.

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Thoughtful Parking

Surface Parking Lots Designed for People

Parking needs to be integrated into the city center in thoughtful ways. Structured parking will be possible with increased density. Parking structures can include housing above or retail at the street level.

Surface parking lots are encouraged to be placed at the rear of a building. Lots could be well lighted, adequately screened, and welllandscaped. Walking surfaces, landscaping and signage could be used to define pedestrian routes across surface lots and distinguish them from vehicle routes. Shade trees are encouraged between rows of parking.

Surface parking should be placed to not deter walking. Parking lots need to be well landscaped and shaded to avoid heat islands. Integrated Parking Structures Parking structures could be placed within development blocks, with entrances placed away from primary streets. The ground floor of the building can be well-articulated with canopies and pedestrian-scaled detailing, lighting and active uses. Parking for higher density residential could be below the building footprint.

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Strategic Questions Is the City and other institutions doing enough to build a culture of entrepreneurship in Oak Ridge and the greater Knoxville area, to bring applied science and technology to market, given the vast potential for spin-off companies from the broad range of research work happening at ORNL related to: • • •

The energy sector Composite materials manufacturing Other advanced manufacturing potential

Can the UT system work with ORNL, DOE, the City and other regional partners to amplify this opportunity and in doing so, create enormous local benefit through new job hubs, tax revenues, and greater talent attraction? What is needed? What are the barriers? There may be a need for other flexible expansion space in a quality downtown where workers want to be. What does a UT Business School partnership with the National Lab look like? Should there be a broader partnership with community colleges to establish a more robust workforce pipeline for the growing sector opportunities? The planning for a new City Center vision should include a needs assessment for the types of work space and support services, workforce training facilities, retail, housing, and other elements for nurturing an innovation and entrepreneurial economy tied to ORNL, UT and other strategic partners. Oak Ridge has unique intellectual capital and research capabilities. How can that be amplified to attract start-up companies and bring additional advancement to the market? - James Lima, Planning + Development Advisor

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8. Next Steps

The City can hold community workshops that will enable “crowd sourced” design, bottom up ideas, and collaborative initiatives which will build momentum and positive energy.

For example: • The City should join with the University of Tennessee and ORNL and convene meetings with local land owners, local institutions and national developers to raise the question of a long range vision for the City Center and discuss the range of possibilities.

Some near term residential development has been identified at the AMSE site and the next round of development within the Main Street project. These efforts should be viewed comprehensively with surrounding areas to be the best they can be and a catalyst for future City Center development.

A market study should test the potential demand and absorption over time, for residential, office, retail, hotel and work space in the City Center.

The “rails to trails” initiative thru the City Center should be prioritized. This will link the City Center to the Oak Ridge riverfront.

The City can begin to expand and strengthen the City Center park system, including the reprogramming of Bissell Park and defining a new Poplar Creek park.

A City Center planning strategy should be put into place with a series of near term actions.

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OAK RIDGE CITY CENTER 2030

Through our various conversations with stakeholders, some of the stated comments include:

Continuous safe sidewalks

Easier crossings on the busy streets

A wide variety of residential typologies meeting the needs of multiple incomes and generations

Provide transit options to jobs and other areas of interest

Don't hide apartments, integrate them into the City Center

Offer the best amenities to residents to be competitive in the region

Insist on continuous sidewalks on all streets

Retail, schools and jobs within walkable distance of higher density neighborhoods

Unique food and entertainment in walkable settings

A greater variety of retailers

Authentic, one-of-a-kind restaurants in addition to the chains

Extended trails, bikeways and parks

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For a small city, Oak Ridge has substantial assets to work with: • A local economy anchored by a world-renowned and stable source of employment and economic output • A part of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley regional business hub • A part of the University of Tennessee system • Relatively low cost of living • Quick access to local, regional and national park systems • Entertainment, culture and quality of life amenities • Panoramic views and adjacency to nature • A unique national history as the “Secret City”

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Profile for SOM CDP CHIAGO

Oak Ridge City Center A 2030 Strategy  

Oak Ridge City Center A 2030 Strategy  

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