Source: The Oak Ridger | Ben Pounds | January 14, 2019

Developer RealtyLink has stated it wants to close a route with a roundabout near Pet-Smart. But Phil Enquist, partner at the urban planning firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, told Planning Commission Thursday night that route could be part of a new path through the center of Oak Ridge, connecting to Badger Avenue and all the way to South Illinois Avenue.

Enquist is the partner in charge of urban design and planning, and leader of the Global City Design Practice.

The extended Badger Avenue connected to Main Street is just one idea proposed in “Oak Ridge City Center: A 2030 Strategy,” which focuses on a two-mile circle that includes RealtyLink’s Main Street Oak Ridge development. However, it extends far beyond that property to include Oak Ridge High School, Woodland Elementary, A.K. Bissell Park and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP came up with the ideas, published at http://www.oakridgetn.gov/content.aspx?article=4546, at the request of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an urban design firm, was also involved in 1940s plans for Oak Ridge. ORNL director Thomas Zacharia, Consolidated Nuclear Security Y-12′s president and CEO Morgan Smith, UCOR’s president and CEO Ken Rueter and Oak Ridge Associated Universities CEO Andy Page, along with members of the city’s Planning Commission, have all expressed support for the ideas, as stated in the 50-plus pages brochure.

“The lab would like to see employees live here,” Enquist said, and he said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s ideas might help achieve that goal.

He referred to its ideas as “maybe what is possible” and “what could happen here.”

In general, Enquist said, he would like to see the city be a little bit more proactive. “You could really boost your tax base with a more assertive idea for your town center,” he said.

The report’s maps shows what the brochure calls a “walkable urban framework,” adding a new grid of small streets with “continuous sidewalks” through much of Oak Ridge’s center. It also lays out plans for a new neighborhood and park along Poplar Creek.

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