East Towne Mall
Posted in the Louisville Forum
#1 Mar 24, 2014
I am someone who has a huge interest in malls...malls that are still in operation...malls that have closed down...malls that are in the process of closing down. I just love learning about them as I feel they are a part of our history and each mall has its own style of architecture, mixture of businesses, etc. As we all know, Knoxville Center Mall (formerly East Towne Mall) has been slowly declining over the years. What isn't vacant is now filled with non-retail or mom and pop stores. The mall also shoulders the burden of a really negative public perception. I understand the mall was built in 1984 and I wasn't alive to remember its opening but I very much remember the mall in its' thriving years. In the early 90s, I remember going there and there being NO vacancies and the mall was packed full of people. Depending on how you feel about consumerism, you may feel happy or sad about what has happened to this mall. I for one don't care to tell you that it really bums me out to see what happened to a place that as a child, I thought was the coolest place ever to be. It's depressing to me, to see a mall so empty. Malls represent good economic times...a place where people gather with friends...a place that represents modern society. To see this mall so empty just gives me a very bleak feeling.
I've been thinking about this mall a lot lately, trying to remember the stores that used to occupy the empty spaces. I remember most of them that were there post 1995 but before that, not a clue. I would like to hear from anyone who remembers the mall around its' opening at what businesses were there. Also, and this I am VERY curious about, is what the old entrance used to look like. Simon remodeled the entrance in 1997 but the only picture I found on the internet is this: http://www.mbhonaker.com/images/perry/-Shipof...
This was on a website for what looks like a place for artists and sculptors to display their work. This picture says it is of East Towne Mall in Knoxville..and I can see the resemblance. But still, I wanted to put this out there to have some confirmation that this is indeed the true entrance.
#2 Mar 24, 2014
You can't be this naive...
In case you are, its because of Knoxville's ongoing negro problem that began in 1965 and reached critical mass in the late 80s. It was once a modern mall marvel that put the stuck-in-the-70s West Town one to shame. Now its a haven for negro salons and "barbah" shops, shoe stores and arab-run kiosks. Its unspoken amongst white people that you get in and out before sundown. Since you are researching malls all across the U.S., I'm certain that you will discover other malls suffering from the similar plague of white flight and negro overload.
#3 Mar 24, 2014
Excuse me? There was NO reason whatsoever for you to be smart with me. I am well aware that there are many factors that go into the decline of this mall, the economy being the biggest (hundreds of malls all over the US are experiencing this problem) and like I said, public perception, whether false or not. My post was concerning the history of this mall and not so much WHY it got to where it is. Since you went there however, I will admit that I haven't felt safe there in years. It isn't a racial thing for me as it seems to be for you. To me, when I see lots of empty halls and dark storefronts, they seem like breeding grounds for trouble, especially for teenagers. My feeling of safety isn't based upon what someone's gender, skin color, or age is but by observing their behavior. As long as people mind their business and aren't bothering anyone, I don't pay them any mind. I have noticed this mall seems to always be full of unsupervised teens and people who are there only to socialize and not to shop and I do feel a little suspicious when I see a group of people off to themselves in the empty segments of the mall. Even when I go to what handful of stores they have left, many of the associates either say nothing to you when you walk in but I have even experienced remarks that were quite rude.
The real problem here is poverty and the economic downturn that has happened, which has affected us all to some extent. The people who work there know that the mall is on its' last legs and probably have more customers who just come in and "browse" and never buy anything. I guess they are not so motivated to be friendly. What made me start to question my safety there is when a few years ago (2008?) the mall started to make headlines for some pretty serious crime taking place. I know these things can happen and does happen anywhere but for so much to happen in one area...that's a pretty iffy track record. I really don't think that the crime came first rather I think when a mall suffers economically, there is less security, fewer customers, and lots of empty space...which will inevitably invite crime into the picture. I remember seeing a purse theft take place when I was little and within a few seconds, the guy was tackled to the ground. Now, well, he would likely get away. He would have plenty of empty hallways to run and not a lot of people around to stop him. People are less brave to act on their impulses when there are large crowds of people around, that is just how it goes. Also, let's not ignore how the major renovation of 1997 affected business. It made the mall look generic and "Knoxville Center" just didn't appeal the same way that "East Towne" did. Perception is everything when it comes to business.
That being said, it is very sad to see what is happening to not only East Towne, but to malls all over the country. I've always liked malls and the purpose they served and I hate that the trend seems to be moving toward outdoor malls, like Turkey Creek. I will still go to East Towne mall on occasion though they have fewer and fewer stores there that I shop at. For the bad rep it has, there are plenty of worse places in Knoxville to be. I like to remember how the mall used to be, not the shell of its former self it is now.
#4 Mar 25, 2014
It was cool back in the day, but yes it took a huge dive. I can remember the tgif, CD stores, movie theater, pet store, county seat....all that. Nice fountains...big open food court!
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