East Knoxville businesses working to drum up business

East Knoxville businesses working to drum up business for Knoxville Center Mall

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Business owners and the public met at the food court at Knoxville Center Mall to discuss plans. Business owners and the public met at the food court at Knoxville Center Mall to discuss plans.
One proposal is to cut down trees near I-640 to increase visibility to the mall. One proposal is to cut down trees near I-640 to increase visibility to the mall.
"I'm thrilled and really, really excited about it. It's something we've needed to do for quite some time. We've got a lot of great things to offer here at the Knoxville Center Mall and I think we've just been kind of overlooked," said Tim Hawkins. "I'm thrilled and really, really excited about it. It's something we've needed to do for quite some time. We've got a lot of great things to offer here at the Knoxville Center Mall and I think we've just been kind of overlooked," said Tim Hawkins.
"There's an interstate here that has at least 75,000 cars a day and they don't know that these businesses and shopping center are here," said Knoxville 4th District City Councilman Nick Della Volpe, who spearheaded the group. "There's an interstate here that has at least 75,000 cars a day and they don't know that these businesses and shopping center are here," said Knoxville 4th District City Councilman Nick Della Volpe, who spearheaded the group.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tired of lackluster sales, dozens of East Knoxville businesses are working to drum up renewed interest in the area, specifically at Knoxville Center Mall.

The newly formed East Town Area Merchants group met for the first time Wednesday to tackle the issues they say are making it hard to do business on their side of town.

"There's a lot of stuff here that I think people have forgotten about or don't even realize is here," said Tim Hawkins, store general manager at Sears in Knoxville Center Mall.

The group held its first meeting inside the mall, the very place they're trying to fill with customers.

They want to get rid of the main roadblocks that are keeping that from happening, first of which is not having enough exposure to the interstate traffic.

They want the heavy brush and trees that entirely block the view of the mall from I-640 cut way back.

"There's an interstate here that has at least 75,000 cars a day and they don't know that these businesses and shopping center are here," said Knoxville 4th District City Councilman Nick Della Volpe, who spearheaded the group.

Second, they want signs put up alongside the interstate directing people towards the mall.

And third, they want to make it easier to actually drive to the mall, including adding another exit off the interstate and improving the roads leading into the mall, making them easier to navigate.

"It is the shopping destination for Jefferson County, East Knoxville, North Knoxville, lower Kentucky. This is where they come first and we need to help them get here," said Della Volpe.

Members of the merchants group hope the changes will bring new retailers to the mall, including new anchor tenants, many of which have told local developers they just aren't interested in coming under the current conditions.

"The most important things to retailers are access, quick and easy access for someone like the soccer mom, and the second thing is visibility," said Tim Graham of Graham Corporation, a shopping center development company.

Businesses inside the mall tell 6 News they're excited about the revitalization possibilities the changes could bring here to the mall.

If they can attract more customers, that means more revenue.

"I'm thrilled and really, really excited about it. It's something we've needed to do for quite some time. We've got a lot of great things to offer here at the Knoxville Center Mall and I think we've just been kind of overlooked," said Hawkins.

Another issue the group discussed was what they see as an incorrect negative perception of the area when it comes to crime.

An officer from the Knoxville Police Department attended the meeting and said crime in the area surrounding the mall has actually gone down in the last few years, thanks in part to an increase in KPD officers who patrol the mall.

TDOT has told the group they would like to attend their next meeting to discuss the infrastructure changes they suggested.

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