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Weekend edition February 17, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Plans for new Downtown Oak Ridge include residential, retail, and the SNS Park

Josh Wright of Machinations Development, also known as Architects Wright, and Phil Voegtle of the Oak Ridge Office of Burns & McDonnell describe plans for the area in a presentation to the East Tennessee Economic Council.

As noted in today’s feature article, two companies – Machinations Development, also known as Architects Wright, and Cappiello Real Estate – have been selected to develop the Wilson Street Corridor, now known as “Downtown Oak Ridge.”

During Friday’s weekly meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council, Josh Wright outlined the firm’s plans, specifically the first building in its combination residential and retail development, and Phil Voegtle, Manager of the Oak Ridge Office of Burns & McDonnell, talked about the distinctive open space included in the Wilson Street Corridor plans that has been designated as SNS Park.

Both presenters focused on the uniqueness that they plan to bring to what is a very unique community. Tony Cappiello was unable to provide an overview of his plans.

Machinations is an architectural, construction and development company that describes itself as creating “places for people to live and interact,” with a specialization “in developing unique, effective solutions for problems and possibilities.”

In taking on the opportunity to bring a downtown to Oak Ridge after 75 years, Wright said, “We need our community to have a place to come and meet and interact. Let’s make this (development) a catalyst, not just apartments.”

Phase 1 involves some retail on the ground floor, possibly a coffee or ice cream shop, with residential on both the first and second floors. The first floor space could later be converted to retail if demand warranted it.

For Phase 2, Wright said an idea under development is co-living. Similar to co-working, where individuals might have an assigned work area but share other space with fellow co-workers, co-living provides individual bedrooms with shared facilities like kitchens and social spaces.

“It would be high-quality living that is affordable,” Wright said of the idea that is growing in popularity in entrepreneurial hubs and might be attractive to those who are new to the region. Regardless of the type of housing that is ultimately developed, he said that a signature of Machinations is the “use of a lot of glass to let the inside out.”

Voegtle moved to Oak Ridge a little more than four years ago and has been donating his services to the City of Oak Ridge to help conceive an open space that would give the Wilson Street Corridor a distinctive look and feel. Because his company is involved in the development of the second target station for the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, that facility and the lab itself provided the impetus for SNS Park.

“We’re building on the brand as the center for science and technology . . . the center of the nuclear renaissance,” Voegtle said. The park, which will require corporate underwriting to become a reality, is visualized as having not only having an open courtyard, but also stops where people can access QR codes to learn a specific item about the city’s history.

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