knoxville — Sears, another high-profile tenant, is leaving the Knoxville Center Mall.
It's one of 72 locations Sears says aren't making money and must close.
The move raises questions about the future of the mall, but the ownership is "optimistic" and "fully committed," according to a spokesperson.
Knoxville Partners LLC purchased the mall in 2016. Since then, JC Penny has also left the mall.
Patrick King, a spokesperson for Knoxville Partners LLC, told 10News Sears' departure doesn't phase them. King said Sears didn't necessarily fit into the vision they had for the mall when they bought it, and they purchased the property considering Sears could leave.
King added Sears' departure also frees them up to pursue their vision for the mall, which includes bringing in entertainment, retail and dining. He said he couldn't provide any specifics on timelines or franchises, but he said a team of about 15 people are working daily to market the property to new tenants.
Commercial brokers say the area has a lot of potential.
"That area serves an eight-county area that is north and east of Knoxville, and so consumers being people of convenience, you know, a lot of them, if they have the option to spend time and money at you know, at 640 and 40 where they intersect or 75 and 640 where they intersect, they'd gladly do that," Justin Sterling, the director of retail and investment at Conversion Properties. "So, it's just a matter of time before the right ingredients and the formula come together so that can take place."
King said the mall is asking for the community's patience as they work. He said it could take a long time, possibly even five or 10 years, to make it what they want it to be.
10News reported in May that the mall owes the city and county more than $600,000 in back taxes.
King said the group would provide a response to that at a later date.