OAK RIDGE BLUEPRINT PLAN: THE VISION


Blueprint, a citywide plan for the future of Oak Ridge, is presented here -- in parts -- to invite additional public feedback to the Municipal Planning Commission before its adoption. New parts of the plan will be added to the webpage over the next several weeks. The same information and opportunity to share opinions is available by visiting the lobby of the Oak Ridge Public Library or the Community Development office at 200 South Tulane Avenue.

KEEP READING FOR A LINK TO COMPLETE OUR SURVEY!


What Have We Heard About Oak Ridge Values and Goals?
During the Blueprint process, we routinely heard several themes which provide a picture of what Oak Ridgers hold dear. We’ve dubbed these as the “values” upon which the Blueprint plan is built.


VALUES


OUR NATURAL ASSETS – There is widespread appreciation – maybe reverence – for the greenbelts, trails, the river, creeks, and scenic vistas that are part of the everyday experience of living in Oak Ridge. Their protection, enhancement and expansion are important to our community, and are an emphasis of this plan.

TECHNOLOGY/INNOVATION/SCIENCE – This place grew out of science and innovation, and that is still the underpinning of our economy and our very identity. We were “Born to Innovate.” The interesting thing is that Oak Ridge, at its inception, was a place where incredibly smart, creative young people came from around the globe to do amazing work that changed the world. That remains the case yet today. The challenge now is to bring the same spirit of creativity and innovation to a broader range of activities, including business and the arts. Spinoff industries have been a natural extension of the collection of highly skilled people in one location. 

EDUCATION IS A HIGH PRIORITY – The population of the city includes an unusually large number of people who are highly educated or are extraordinarily skilled at what they do. News about the superior academic performance of public school students gets top billing in the local Oak Ridge media, and is part of the Oak Ridge reputation. The community has put its money where its mouth is supporting a world-class school system.

BEING UNIQUELY OAK RIDGE... We heard from people throughout the process that Oak Ridge doesn’t want to be Farragut, or Knoxville, or Hardin Valley, or Maryville. We want to be Oak Ridge. While this is somewhat abstract, it is not just pride in the physical city. It is pride in our history, our landscape, the arts, and the contribution we have and continue to make to the world of science. Oak Ridge was an extraordinary place when it was the core element of the Manhattan project – and remains so today.






The Oak Ridge High School class of 1953 compiled a book of remembrances for their 50th reunion. In his essay, Jay Searcy zeroed in on a very unusual aspect of growing up here. He noted that in this raw new town, there were no established neighborhoods. When people arrived, they were assigned a house to live in based on the size of the family. 

“Oak Ridge came as close to being a classless community as the world will probably ever see.”

Indeed. We were all immigrants together from the construction crews, to the adventurous high school girls who boarded buses from everywhere to become the Atomic City Girls, to the brilliant scientists from across Europe and the United States – all 70,000 of us.

[Excerpt from Pat Postma in her remarks at a news conference announcing the new Oak Ridge Fund for Achieving Excellence (ORFACE).] 
 


Oak Ridge was created almost overnight in the mobilization of the United States for war, immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A collection of some of the world’s best scientists and scores of creative young men and women were recruited and brought to an isolated valley in East Tennessee as part of a mission to win a war and save western civilization.

Land was acquired, plants were built, housing and minimum services were provided and what would become the City of Oak Ridge began to take shape. After a period of intense work, the mission that had led to creation of the city was accomplished. That sequence of events not only gave birth to a new city, it imbued that city with a spirit of innovation and a set of shared values that survive today.

And, as the comments of Mr. Searcy attest, we were born with an exceptional sense of ‘community.’ Ms. Postma added, “We’re not perfect, but on the whole, Oak Ridge has excelled at community.”


GOALS


Shared values tend to support shared perceptions about things citizens want and things they believe the city needs. The goals described below were found throughout previous Oak Ridge planning documents and reinforced by citizen input during the Blueprint process.

Grow our Population and Economic Sustainability
In order to support the level of public service provision desired by citizens while keeping taxes from rising, the economic base and tax base must become deeper and wider. Part of this is population growth – particularly in keeping highly-educated, well-paid employees of the Federal facilities interested in being residents rather than commuters to surrounding communities. The economy needs to be secured by diversifying. Oak Ridge has a strong economy, but it is dramatically impacted by Federal policy and budget decisions made in Washington, D.C. Diversification would make it more stable, and new business that grows out of creativity and innovation would be consistent with the history of Oak Ridge.

Enhance our Image/Quality of Place
Clarity about what makes us ‘uniquely Oak Ridge,’ coupled with better physical definition of a city embedded in a huge Federal forest, can help fuel growth of population and the economy. We need to increase efforts to provide high-quality amenities, entertainment, cultural opportunities, and other ‘placemaking’ activities to attract visitors and make Oak Ridge a more attractive place to live. Likewise, better definition of our city, its entrances, districts and landmarks, will help to enhance our image.

Improve Connectivity and Mobility
We heard, loud and clear, at almost every public gathering, that Oak Ridgers want more and better sidewalks, additional trails, and safer roads for pedestrians and bicyclists. Additionally, the size of many of the blocks in our city center require any redevelopment to be at a massive scale. This makes it difficult for small, local businesses to attempt startups or expansions. Better connections, for vehicles, pedestrians and bikers, will improve quality of life as well as development potential.



ABOUT THE BLUEPRINT 

Blueprint is a citywide plan for the future of Oak Ridge. The formation of the plan is led by the Municipal Planning Commission, with input and involvement from the entire community, including residents, businesses, and property owners. Generally, a citywide plan prepares for future population change or growth and its anticipated impacts to the community, in order to ensure that the city can achieve desired goals for the built environment, community services, economic health, and quality of living.

The Blueprint planning process began with a kickoff meeting attended by more than 500 people in January 2017. Following the kickoff, the city was partitioned into 26 subareas – thirteen residential and twelve nonresidential. From May 2017 to August 2018, the Planning Commission and Community Development Staff hosted 13 community open houses to collect feedback in those focused areas. 


Once adopted, the Blueprint Plan will be a guide – informed by the community itself – to assist city leaders with policy decisions and the prioritization of city projects. The Plan will also provide valuable current insight to private sector land owners, developers, business owners, and community organizations. Going forward, the Plan recommendations will be monitored by the Planning Commission and Community Development Staff for progress and adaptability.

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