Renovations are underway at the Knoxville Center Mall after a private investor bought the property in August 2016 for more than $10 million.
Among the more than 1,500 retailers developers have reached out to, they are in preliminary talks with Saw Works Brewing Company to add craft beer to the mall.
"A couple years ago, we may not have even considered East Towne/Center mall,” said Saw Works Brewing Co. owner Adam Palmer. "But the whole local feel and the local spin that's been happening for several years now has really taken effect. "
Palmer is negotiating a lease with the mall to offer a craft beer tasting room near the movie theater.
"They would walk in, they would be able to sample any of the Saw Works offerings that we have on the market right now," he said. “Also, new varieties of beers that people would not be able to find on the market.”
The new owners – listed under a company called Knoxville Partners LLC – are currently making landscaping and maintenance improvements, and eventually plan to turn the once-thriving mall into a popular retail and residential hub.
Ronnie Collins, who has lived near the Knoxville Center for most of his life, serves as president of the nearby Alice Bell/Spring Hill Neighborhood Association.
"It's not necessarily got to be big chain stores,” he said. “A lot of local flavor may work good, like it's worked on Happy Holler. I don’t want to see it turn into a West Town or Turkey Creek, but I would like to see it survive.”
Knoxville City Council Member Nick Della Volpe serves the city’s 4th District, which includes the Knoxville Center Mall.
"There are about 110,000 people that live within a 15 minute drive of this location we're in right now. That's a huge demographic,” he said.
Della Volpe added surrounding rural counties would only add traffic to the mall.
“We are surrounded to the north and east by rural counties. There’s more than 150,000 people there, and they have to come to Knoxville to find larger quality and quantity shopping,” he said.
Developer Patrick King said the owners’ first priority is maintenance, including patching up asphalt, making renovations to the Regal entrance and other landscape-related changes.
Then they will have to seek approval from the city and adding certain long-term improvements to the mall, as well as seek approval from the Department of Transportation for easier highway access to the mall.