Investments to help new downtown development

Investments to help new downtown development

Various individuals and companies are pitching in money to help develop new businesses near Wilson Street.

Community Development Director Wayne Blasius, a member of Oak Ridge city staff, spoke about these donations and other moves toward a downtown Oak Ridge at a virtual Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce event Tuesday, Aug. 24.

“This is about development of our tax base, as well as a fun place to be,” he told the online audience.

Oak Ridge Community Development Director Wayne Blasius

He explained the Oak Ridge Land Bank is looking for developers for vacant lot property it owns on and near Wilson Street. The Land Bank is offering about 6.5 acres of vacant property at the eastern end of the Wilson Street area, near the Japanese restaurant Kume.

Blasius talked about individuals and companies who had helped the Land Bank with funds “to help finance land and improvements in our new downtown.”

He said Oak Ridge residents Pat Postma and Sue Byrne had started an investment effort to raise local investment capital from citizens and encouraged people to contact them for more information. He said the project is focused “on community improvement more than financial return.”

Pat Postma, left, listens to John Rather of Rather Creative Group Inc. share ideas about a future downtown Oak Ridge at Toast the Town. On the table is a map of one possible plan.

He said their efforts led to nearly $500,000 in loans from individuals.

On top of that, he said, federal contractor UCOR had donated a $100,000 lead grant, and an anonymous resident had provided another $100,000 grant.

During his talk, Blasius spoke positively of the level of interest in development in the area. He spoke of the recent Toast the Town event earlier this month, which he said brought in people of “all shapes and sizes” interested in the development.

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