The Early Years: A Bustling Hub of Activity
The Knoxville Center Mall, initially known as East Towne Mall, was more than just a shopping center. It was a vibrant community hub that marked the growth and development of North Knoxville, Tennessee.
Strategically located near Exit 8 on Interstate 640, the mall opened its doors to the public in July 1984, becoming a beacon of growth in a rapidly developing area.
The mall was designed to be a one-stop shopping destination, housing a variety of stores that catered to different needs. From clothing and accessories to electronics and home goods, the mall offered diverse products that attracted a wide demographic of shoppers.
The addition of Sam’s Club in the mall’s outlot area in 1998 was a significant milestone. This addition diversified the mall’s offerings, attracting a broader range of visitors and contributing to the mall’s economic success.
Ownership Changes and the Onset of Decline
The turn of the century brought changes to the mall. It was sold to the Simon Property Group spin-off Washington Prime Group, marking the beginning of a new era. However, this period also saw the start of a decline.
Dillard’s, one of the mall’s anchor stores, announced closing plans due to declining sales in May 2008. The store eventually closed its doors in September 2008, marking the beginning of a series of closures that would plague the mall.
In a bid to revive the mall, it was put up for sale again in February 2016. By August of the same year, the mall found a new owner in Knoxville Partners LLC. Despite the change in ownership, the mall’s fortunes did not improve significantly. The new owners faced the daunting task of revitalizing a mall already on a downward trajectory.
Store Closures and the Final Years
The subsequent years saw the closure of several major stores. JCPenney announced its closure in March 2017 as part of a plan to close 138 stores nationwide.
The store officially closed on September 17, 2017. The following year, Sears also announced its closure as part of a plan to close 72 stores nationwide. The store closed its doors on September 2, 2018.
By October 2019, the mall was a shadow of its former self. It housed only 12 stores, a dentist’s office, an event center, and two restaurants. Belk’s largest remaining stores announced its closure in mid-November, leaving the mall without any anchor department stores.
Closure of the Knoxville Center Mall: The End of an Era
The final nail in the coffin came on October 31, 2019, when the mall’s owners announced that the entire mall would close and all tenants’ leases would end on January 31, 2020.
The Regal Cinema theatre location, a long-standing feature of the mall, closed without warning on the same day the mall’s closure was announced.
The closure of the mall marked the end of an era. It was a poignant reminder of the mall’s vibrant past and a symbol of the changing retail landscape. The once-bustling mall, a hub of community and commerce, was now silent.
Redevelopment Plans: A New Beginning
Despite the mall’s closure, the story did not end there. In September 2020, real estate development company Hillwood Enterprises filed a rezoning request for the 78-acre mall site.
The plan was to demolish the mall and replace it with a fulfillment center for Amazon in North Knoxville, Tennessee. The demolition process began in April 2021, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for the site.
The redevelopment plans signaled a new beginning for the site. The Amazon fulfillment center, once completed, would bring new jobs and opportunities to the area.
Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future
The Knoxville Center Mall’s journey from a bustling shopping center to a closed and demolished structure reflects the changing times. While its closure marked the end of an era, the site’s redevelopment into an Amazon fulfillment center signals a new beginning.
As we look back on the mall’s history, we remember it not just as a commercial center but as a part of the community’s fabric that will always hold a special place in our memories.