KNOXVILLE (WATE) – People gathered at a community meeting Monday to discuss plans for the Knoxville Center Mall following its sale to a local investor group.
Previous story: Knoxville Center Mall sold to local investors
The group of investors said they approached the previous owners four years ago and began negotiations with WP Glimcher in 2015 after it was announced that the mall was for sale.
One developer with Knoxville Partners LLC says they are excited to take on this big project at the Knoxville Center Mall. Many people with Knoxville Partners LLC are originally from here.
“We know this is a project that is playing a very pivotal role within the community,” said Patrick King, an employee of Henry & Wallace, a member of Knoxville Partners LLC.
King says their number one priority is to listen to shoppers, tenants and other community members for ideas.
“Really listening to them and understanding what it is they see is possible there at the mall,” said King.
One thing possible is more retailers. Knoxville Partners LLC has talked to about 1,500 so far.
“We cant disclose the people who have showed interest, but I can say we have had people that show interest,” said King.
The new buyers are also focusing on repairs after years of neglect.
“Simple things like changing light bulbs and repairing lights and escalators. Many of them don’t work. The parking lot. There are a lot of potholes,” said King.
Henry & Wallace is the development arm of Knoxville Partners LLC. They’ve had other projects including the Kress Building on Gay Street.
“We know conflicts are inevitable,” said King.
They were supposed to build a Wild Wing’s Cafe in the Kress Building. DNC Lakeside, the partnership behind the effort, filed a complaint saying not enough work was being done. The complaint was eventually settled out of court.
“In the business world, for better or worse, those conflicts often get resolved,” said King.
As for the Knoxville Center Mall, King says its under the hand of creative, hardworking people. They hope to make this a vibrant project.
“We intend to be committed to this for the long haul,” said King.
More than 100 gather for meeting with Knoxville Center Mall owners
It was a packed meeting at New Harvest Park on Tuesday night. More than 100 people came out to give their ideas for Knoxville Center Mall. The owners were also at the meeting to answer questions and to talk more about the project.
“The mall is a giant project that has had lots of problems for a long time,” said Brant Enderle, a member of Knoxville Partners LLC.
Knoxville Partners LLC said the primary goal of the meeting was to solicit input and tell people the developers are going through a process. One concern several community members raised was the negative perception of the area around Knoxville Center Mall.
“I’ve never seen any crime. I’ve never had any problem,” said one person at the meeting.
Many people at the meeting agreed.
“We like to buy distressed projects. We like to change their perception. But, changing perception takes a long time,” said Enderle.
Another thing that will take a long time is signing retailers. Owners say they won’t get on the retailers’ schedules until 2018.
“I don’t get to choose who the tenants are. They choose us. All we can do is sell them.” said Enderle.
The owners have talked to 1,500 retailers so far. Macy’s is a department store community members say they would love at the mall. Knoxville Partners LLC said they are talking to them.
People also suggested a one-stop shop.
“Something like a drug store, a grocery store or a post office,” said one person at the meeting.
The owners say the plan to make the property mixed-use. This means they are looking at adding office elements, more entertainment and a lot more restaurants to the property. They also mentioned the idea of building a hotel in a current parking lot. This was an idea many at the meeting really liked. Some believe this approach will make the mall more attractive.
In the short term, the owners are focusing on repairs after years of neglect.
“Improve security, mow the grass, change the light bulbs,” said Enderle.
Overall, the owners were happy to see this community so passionate about the project.
“They really understand what it means to be invested in something in the long term. That is something we understand well.”