Source: The Oak Ridger | Ben Pounds | December 22, 2017

At a recent Oak Ridge City Council work session, the city’s economic development consultant Ray Evans showed Council members a glimpse of what the new home for the American Museum of Science and Energy will look like.

The new location for AMSE will be in the Main Street Oak Ridge development near JCPenney.

As City Manager Mark Watson explained in an interview after the meeting, AMSE’s main entrance will face the entrance — across the current parking lot — from Cinemark’s Tinseltown movie theater.

Evans showed images of the building’s past as an A&P grocery store in 1955. The museum will include 18,000 square feet and all of its public areas will be on the building’s top floor.

As Evans explained to Vice Mayor Rick Chinn, the city has a lease with RealtyLink, owner and developer of the Main Street Oak Ridge development, and in turn, the city has a sublease with the Department of Energy, the Museum’s operator. Evans also mentioned the city negotiating with those other parties in terms of space and layout.

“We are the facilitator between the developer and DOE,” he said.

Evans said the city does not have control over exhibits, but he was positive about the future exhibits the museum will hold, even though he did not go into detail.

“I think the community will be excited,” he said.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Evans showed images of the new space. The new entrance will have a 16-foot wide sidewalk and a plaza area.

Visitors then come through a vestibule with a tower-like structure that includes a slanting element into a 7,200-square-foot exhibit space. Evans described a “retail shop,” inside the location, along with office and storage on one side. He said the retail gift shop will have glass fronts on both the vestibule side and the exhibit side. On the other side of the museum will be restrooms and two 800-square-foot classrooms with an acoustic folding wall between them, allowing the classroom to become 1,600 square feet if needed. Also on that side will be office and storage areas.

The museum’s floor plan also includes a “large theater with a stage,” which Evans described as 2,500 or 2,600 square feet. another storage area and a loading dock.

The only lower floor space the museum will use will be for electrical and heating equipment. He also said the National Park Service will have some sort of “presence” in the facility, but did not identify any area as a ranger station such as the one at the present AMSE building on South Tulane Avenue.

Evans described the work on the new museum as taking 4.5 to 5 months, meaning if it started on January it might finish in June. However, Watson mentioned a transitional period to make the new museum operational, including working with the American Museum of Science and Energy Foundation.

Council member Ellen Smith requested that the museum appear distinctive from the side of a future Mariott hotel rather than just from its front. The hotel is currently being built next to the new AMSE home.

“Will it appear to be something other than the rear of a building?” she asked.

Council member Dodson suggested a mural. Watson said changes to the external layout would involve working with RealtyLink on that matter.

Also discussed was the use of the building’s remaining space, which Evans said included 13,000 square feet next door and more in the basement. Evans said he was willing to negotiate for the museum to occupy more space if necessary.

Watson said the remaining space would be “abnormal” for a standard “cookie-cutter store.”

RealtyLink’s current plan also involves gaining the land and site where the museum is currently located. While the city has not openly reviewed plans for the building itself, it has recently approved rezoning and a planned unit development for the land in front of it, including a portion of its parking lot. That plan involves spaces for retail stores or restaurants, including a grocery store.