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"Hopefully we'll bring some life back over here" | New event venue opens at Knoxville Center Mall

Despite the dozens of abandoned storefronts, Gate19 opened Saturday as a live performance and concert space in the Knoxville Center Mall.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For years, businesses have been abandoning the Knoxville Center Mall. 

Sears recently closed, and Dillard's closed 10 years ago. Belk, which is the final big-box store at the mall, announced last month that it will close later this year. Signature Diamonds has also announced plans to leave.

On Wednesday, The Burger Stop announced it too was shutting down for good.

"We sold our last burger today," it wrote on Facebook. "It was a dream come true, wish it could last longer but here is to new adventures!"

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On Saturday afternoon, 10News counted approximately 100 abandoned storefronts. Fourteen other businesses were open.

Credit: WBIR News
As of Saturday, Sept. 28, six businesses were open on the lower level of the Knoxville Center Mall.

Still, some business owners have hope. Gilded Gown owner Jacqui Wadsworth said her business has expanded since they first opened in 2013.

"The possibility for success is there," she said. "There's just a ton of opportunity if businesses take advantage of it."

She noted that Gilded Gowns has a strong social media presence and carries a variety of sizes from 00 to 32. Brides from different states have driven up to six hours to visit her bridal boutique and prom dress store.

"We have more than 12,000 square feet in two storefronts," she said. "Our business has continued to grow."

Jay Harris, who ran the International and Concourse event venues, said he sees the Knoxville Center Mall as a place for opportunity.

Credit: WBIR News
On Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 businesses were open on the upper level of the Knoxville Center Mall including Gate19.

"I've heard a lot of good things about what can be happening here and we just want to be a part of that from the very beginning," Harris said. "The opportunity came to us and it was just fate, meant to be.

After the International closed about a year ago, he said they've been looking to open a venue with a similar vibe.

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"We're hoping to kind of recreate that family feel that we had down there for so many years," he said. "We'll host a variety of concerts, everything from rock to alternative country to EDM concerts and things like that."

On Saturday, they held their first official concert "Twiztid." In January, Gate19 will host "Black Flag." Harris said they have "lots of things in the pipeline." Although, they have not been publicly announced.

In the meantime, Gate19 will continue to remodel.

"It's still a work in progress," Harris said. "It'll develop more and more."

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