Giant boost to reindustrialization in Oak Ridge?

k31overview Demolition of the K-31 building will make room for new industrial projects at the government’s former uranium-enrichment site. (KNS photo/Paul Efird)

There have been various reports of companies interested in big-sized parcels in Oak Ridge for major development projects. Depending on the reports, the interest may be in 150-acre (or larger) parcels at the East Tennessee Technology Park — former home to the government’s uranium-enrichment enterprise — or a bit east of there at Horizon Center.

The rumor mill has generated some excitement about prospects to come.

I talked this week to Lawrence Young, president of the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET), which markets the surplus federal properties at ETTP, and he was a little coy and cautious about what’s going on. He acknowledged that there has been some attention about large parcels available in Oak Ridge.

Asked if there if there were fish biting at the scene, Young said, “The only thing I can say is there is fish in the ocean. I can tell you they’re near the boat. That’s about all I can say.”

Young said every year or so, there are expressions of interest of a major scope, but he said he’s learned not to get overly excited. A deal is not close at this point, he said.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that one or more companies may be seeking parcels of 150 acres or more. UCOR, the Department of Energy’s cleanup manager, recently noted that current and future demolition activities are intended to make big properties available for future use at the East  Tennessee Technology Park.

The K-31 building once part of the government’s uranium complex is currently being demolished by UCOR.

Once that demolition is completed, it will open up a parcel of about 175 acres when combined with the contiguous K-33 site (already cleared), Young said.

The bigger parcels open up new opportunities for attracting industry, he said.

But Young reiterated that big parcels only put Oak Ridge in the competitive ballgame and don’t guarantee anything.

CROET would be handling the interest in parcels at ETTP, while Oak Ridge’s Industrial Development Board would be the host party for development at Horizon Center — another area that was once part of the government’s Oak Ridge reservation.

Depending on the size needs for industrial development, it’s conceivable that some sites previously sold or leased to other entities could be recalled or renegotiated to make way for the home-run project.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.