Evolution of Knoxville Center Mall in Knoxville, TN: From Mall to Amazon Hub

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, TN.

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.

Adding Sam’s Club to the mall’s outlot area in 1998 was a significant milestone. This addition diversified the mall’s offerings, attracting more visitors and contributing to its economic success.

The Knoxville Center Mall was a vibrant community gathering spot in its heyday. Seasonal events and local gatherings painted a vivid picture of life in Knoxville, Tennessee, weaving a rich tapestry of memories cherished by many.

Knoxville Center Mall

Ownership Changes and the Onset of Decline

In 1997, Simon Property Group spearheaded a major overhaul of the mall. The renovation retained the exterior while introducing a new entrance and upgrading the interior with new tile, paint, trim, and a distinctive Tennessee mountain theme.

Dillard’s, one of the mall’s anchor stores, announced its closing plans in May 2008 due to declining sales.

The store eventually closed its doors in September 2008, marking the beginning of a series of closures that would plague the mall.

In 2014, the mall was sold from the Simon Property Group to Washington Prime Group, marking the beginning of a new era.

However, in February 2016, the mall was put up for sale again to revive it. By August of the same year, it had found a new owner in Knoxville Partners LLC.

By August 2017, the new owners had reverted the mall’s name back to East Towne Mall. However, signage remained unchanged and continued to be marketed as Knoxville Center Mall.

Despite the changes 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

In subsequent years, several major stores closed. 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.

The largest remaining store, Belk, closed on November 16, 2019, leaving the mall without any anchor department stores.

The closure of anchor stores marked the end of an era, transforming bustling corridors into silent echoes of the past.

This shift mirrors a national trend as communities across the U.S. grapple with the changing face of retail.

Closure of the Knoxville Center Mall: The End of an Era

The complete closure of the mall was declared on October 31, 2019, with all leases terminating 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.

Its loss was felt deeply within the community, marking a poignant chapter in the city’s history.

The mall’s closure 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

After the mall’s closure, property ownership was shared among Belk and Dillard’s corporate parents, Millertown Pavilion LLC, and TF Knoxville TN LLC.

In September 2020, Hillwood Enterprises sought rezoning the 78-acre mall site to construct an Amazon e-commerce fulfillment center in North Knoxville, Tennessee.

The estimated redevelopment cost was $70 million. Demolition started in April 2021 and ended within the same year.

The redevelopment plans signaled a new beginning for the site. Once completed, the Amazon fulfillment center would bring new jobs and opportunities to the area.

The transformation into an Amazon fulfillment center marks a new chapter for Knoxville, promising economic rejuvenation and job creation.

This development reflects a broader shift towards e-commerce, reshaping the local landscape and offering new opportunities for the community.

The Transformation into Amazon Fulfillment Center

The Transition

The once lively corridors of East Towne Mall are set to become the backbone of a mega-retailer’s distribution network.

The global e-commerce giant Amazon has chosen this site for one of its delivery stations. Initially expected to launch in 2022, the facility aims to hire hundreds, revitalizing the area with employment opportunities.

However, the opening has faced delays, and no precise date for its inauguration has been set.

Knoxville Center Mall demolition

Investment and Development

Amazon’s commitment to the Knoxville site is evident in its substantial investment. The company has spent tens of millions on developing this facility, acquiring four parcels of land totaling $22 million.

Despite the significant financial outlay, the project has encountered delays attributed to rising prices and supply chain challenges, postponing the much-anticipated opening.

Community and Employment Impact

The delivery station is poised to become a significant employment hub, offering hundreds of jobs ranging from $17 to $28 per hour.

This influx of opportunities is expected to significantly impact the local economy and community. Many in the region eagerly awaited Amazon’s approach to hiring, commencing 30 days before the station’s opening.

City Collaboration and Infrastructure

The City of Knoxville’s involvement with the Amazon project has been minimal but crucial.

Collaborations include integrating a Knoxville Area Transit bus stop into the site’s plans, enhancing accessibility for future employees, and contributing to the area’s infrastructure.

This partnership reflects a shared vision for growth and development, albeit without direct financial incentives from the city.

Looking Forward

As the community awaits the operational launch of the Amazon delivery station, questions remain about the exact opening date and the final impact on the region.

However, transforming from a retail mall to a logistics hub symbolizes a shift in economic landscapes, promising new beginnings and opportunities for Knoxville’s residents.

This new chapter marks a significant change for the site. It represents the evolving nature of commerce and employment in the modern era.

The anticipation builds as the community looks forward to the benefits and changes the Amazon fulfillment center will bring to the area.

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