Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eastgate Mall: Chattanooga, TN

Most every city had its first generation mall.  In a few instances, they survive and sometimes become completely dominant through proactive management.  However, such malls enjoy several factors including a neighborhood that remains prosperous enough to support it, continual modification/additions to the original structure and wisely choosing the right anchor tenants.  Eastgate, unfortunately, was not one of those malls.  Built in 1965, Eastgate was an open-air mall and the first in the city.  It lured both of its major downtown stores, Miller Brothers and Loveman's of Chattanooga along with JCPenney.  Sears also opened a store right next to the mall, resulting in a nearly four anchor complex when even three anchors on a mall was cutting edge.  It was in a highly visible location at the intersection of two major interstates, I-75 and I-24.  At the time, it is certain that the original builder probably never thought it could go wrong. 


For a mere six years, Eastgate faced no competition at all.  The nearest competition at all was in Atlanta and Nashville, and both cities were over 100 miles away.  However, the mall had one fatal flaw and that was that access to the mall was difficult.  While the mall was highly visible, getting to it involved using exits beyond the mall that included a confusing series of turns.  Nevertheless, the mall survived and thrived even after Northgate Mall opened in 1971.  Northgate had one advantage over Eastgate in that it was fully enclosed and was more convenient to the sprawling northern suburbs.  In response, Eastgate was enclosed and both malls thrived even though they had a similar anchor lineup.  One thing Northgate did not have at the time was Loveman's, which was off-site.


These photos were probably not published for so long because of my dissatisfaction on how dark they were.  My old camera underexposed terribly in low lighting, so these came out extra dark.  Nevertheless, the mall WAS dark which made these all the more spooky.  All photos were taken over four years ago in May 2006. The first photo was along the main part of the mall and this photo is of the northeast entrance wing.


Another view of the northeast entrance wing with better lighting.  Gold Rush was one of the few stores left, and it looked like it, too, closed after moving closer to the outside entrance.

The mid-1980's were the last successful time for Eastgate.  The remainder of the decade proved to be the beginning of its troubles.  The surrounding neighborhood began to go into decline, the mall was by then dated and a new mall opened up in 1986 on I-75 to the north in another sprawling suburban enclave.  This mall, Hamilton Place, was huge and had the capacity to crush both malls.  The new mall had five anchors, including one new to the region: Parisian.  This new mall had all new retail, its own exit and was the largest mall ever built in Tennessee.  In fact, that title remains today.  Eastgate renovated again at this time, but nothing stopped the downward spiral of the mall.


Foot Locker...always one of the last remaining stragglers...was apparently still in business, though they were apparently closed for the night.  The mall actually stayed open until 10 when I visited, and these photos were taken after 9 PM.


Entering the main part of the mall, the center features a pretty upscale design.  I am assuming it got a second renovation in 1998 on the inside as well as outside.  JCPenney would have started to the left on the opposite side and the mall formerly would have continued straight ahead.

As Hamilton Place joined the fray in 1986, Eastgate also saw two anchor changes at the mall at almost exactly at the same time that Hamilton Place opened.  Loveman's (not to be confused with Loveman's of Alabama) was bought out by Proffitt's and Miller's became Hess's.  At first, no anchor changes occurred at the mall despite a decline in traffic due to Hamilton Place.  However, Sears, which was located on the outlot, was lost to the new mall becoming an outlet for a short while. 




A couple more shots along the main mall.  I do not believe that any stores were still operational in the main mall...virtually all offices thus the boxy windows and doors in lieu of closed up shops.  Malls converted to offices look like...malls converted to offices.  It's like trying to pretend a pawn shop was not an old Pizza Hut.

This new mall, when opened, had Loveman's and Hess's, which had just bought out Miller's.  So did Eastgate.  Hess's closed their newly acquired location at Eastgate rather quickly.  JCPenney held on for awhile longer at Eastgate, but they eventually opened up at the new mall.  It is unknown exactly when they moved, however.  Although the mall had renovated again to compete, it was still not enough.  By 1990, all that was left was Proffitt's, who by then had acquired the former Loveman's location.  Also, at some point Goody's took over the former Miller's location propping up the north end of the mall.  Nevertheless, the mall was beginning to empty out and by 1992, Proffitt's left making Eastgate officially a dead mall.  However, the mall did not close down.  In fact, it still had a lot more life in it though much of this was not retail.


A little more of the same.  I'm really unsure what was where in the context of these photos.



This windowed wall once housed the Miller's mall entrance.  Morrison's Cafeteria was to the left on the northwest entrance corridor.  Goody's was long gone when I visited.  Goody's penchant for propping up dead malls is likely a big reason why they pretty much died off themselves, Stage Stores aside.

In the mid-1990's, plans were made to begin to convert the mall to more of a town center with a combination of offices and retail.  The mall was also renamed Eastgate Town Center, and at the time it was considered revolutionary.  While nothing new today, the idea of converting a mall to offices was a pioneering concept as the first generation malls were seeing their last gasp of life.  Portions of the mall were given a "main street" appearance and the former Loveman's/Proffitt's was turned into a call center.  By this time, the only "anchor" holding on was Goody's and the mall continued to hold on to a few stores and shops over the next decade.  Most of those shops that remained were those that had outside entrances, but the mall was still completely open mid-2006.


In the background was the Loveman's/Proffitt's mall entrance roughly in that corner.  In this pic, it looks like its merely a cutesy side entrance for employees hoping to take advantage of lunch at the dead food court.  A rather elegant rock fountain is in the foreground.


More detail of the fountain, which is definitely not original.  I like it, though...why can't something like this ever show up in living malls?  I believe this probably blocks the side entrance corridor between what was Loveman's and Penney's.

Needless to say, the redevelopment of the mall to an office/retail hybrid turned out not to work so well.  While the office component was successful, the retail component in the mall was in its last gasp in the mid-00's.  On top of that, the refacing of old anchors only helped to obscure the retail aspects making any remaining shops in there stand out even less.  Only about 3-5 stores continued to operate in the mall since there was absolutely no reason to go there.  At that point, the redevelopment plans had shifted to tearing down the mall structure, leaving only the anchors and cutting a new street through the center of the mall.  While these latest plans were ambitious, they have yet to take place.
 

A look along the southeast entrance wings includes trees, benches, blank walls and muted light.  Rather creepy I must say.  Twenty years before this area was hopping.


The food court looked to be an afterthought.  It did appear that one restaurant was still open at that point, but that may have just been left over.  However, Electric Cowboy, a bar with only an outside entrance, was definitely busy that night.  I have no idea if it is still around there today.

Today, the mall has become basically an office building in an area that has since seen significant decline since the mall opened.  Even worse, the economy is pulling away many of the office tenants who are leaving for nicer buildings...many vacated by other bankrupt companies.  With the economy of the city long strained, it would be difficult to revive the mall even in redevelopment with two other successful first-tier shopping malls already in the city.  It is miraculous that it supports that many, but it leaves no room for Eastgate.  The photos here are from 2006, which show the mall at its very end of any retail use.


Here I am looking from the north court in front of the former Miller's/Hess's down the northwest entrance wing.  Gold Rush had previously abandoned the store on the left.  I really am not positive where Goody's was, though I am told it was the old Miller's.


Here, I am looking back the other way at the northeast entrance corridor.  I talked a bit to a nice mall walker at the end of that row that evening who obviously remembered better days at the mall.


The same northwest wing from another angle.  Looking at this set, I sure wish I had come back for another set.  This part of the mall was sealed off more recently for expansion of one of the offices.  Morrison's Cafeteria was on this wing on the right.

No matter how well-intended, redeveloping very old malls tends to be risky business.  It does seem to work, but usually not in the long-term.  Part of the problem is most of the high-quality tenants never seem to come back even when the stucco hardens and the paint dries since malls are so dependent on their hinterland.  This includes even rebuilds into strip malls such as Westgate Mall in Macon, GA and Roswell Mall in Roswell, GA.  Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to attempt to save any of these structures as long as possible in lieu of just giving up.


Looking back down the northeast entrance corridor.  A once legendary mall was fading into history as I begin to leave.


Outside is the former Loveman's/Proffitt's.  It is the only original anchor at the mall that actually looks original.  I need to go back for more photos of this place soon with so much darkness.  This building used to be yellow, not white.


My attempt at an Eastgate Mall map of how it would have been in 1965.  Feel free to make any corrections since parts of this are unclear to me.

I think that demolishing the mall completely is the only real hope for reviving the area.  In fact, I would not even envision retail in its place since the entire retail corridor has ultimately failed, the city is over-retailed and access to the property is already poor.  A government complex, however, might be a good re-use of the property and would certainly pay more respect to the mall than the dicing it up for offices has.  Chattanooga Police Department already uses part of the structure for offices at current.   While I tend to be sentimental about classic malls, this mall has been modified to the extent that very little about it is classic.  In all, Eastgate had an interesting history, and a more unique layout since it was originally open-air.  For 12 years its conversion to offices worked quite well, but I think that may not last for the long term.  Nevertheless, the mall served the city well for nearly three decades and I am glad it is still around in any form.

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for covering this mall. I was always curious about it when I lived in Nashville and would see it on my way to/from GA. It makes perfect sense that failure to thrive would set in when it was so hard to get to, no matter how visible it was and still is.

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  2. Hess's didn't open up at Hamilton Place when the mall did, it was actually a couple of years later. Miller's designed the store and was in the process of building when they were bought out by Hess's. It opened as Hess's with the traditional Hess's chandeliers, which Proffitt's removed when they took over the store. That was significant because none of the other Tennessee Hess's had them, as Hess's never did significant renovations to any of the Tennessee stores after buying them from Miller's parent company.

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  3. Sear's outparcel store was an Outlet Store, not a regular Sears, with downtown Sears being the only full line Sears until opening at Northgate in 1973. The downtown Sears, Loveman's and Miller's all closed with the opening of Hamilton Place, while Eastgate Miller's and Loveman's remained open. Loveman's Osborne Center store in East Ridge(Tennessee's oldest strip shopping center) closed also for the move to Hamilton Place. JCPenney stayed on at Eastgate for several more years as the store had been remodeled and expanded a few years prior.

    Woolworth was also a junior anchor at Eastgate as was Winn-Dixie, later Revco. Eckerd was also in Eastgate, near the theater. Morrison's Cafeteria was the primary restaurant, located by Miller's. JCPenney had the 1963 Penney's logo. The south end of Eastgate with Loveman's and the theater is newer than the rest of the mall, added around 68-69. Goody's moved into the vacated Hess's/Miller's. The unkown addition served as Goody's after the renovation and conversion to Eastgate Town Center.

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  4. When I first went in this mall in 1988, it didn't seem dead at all to me and still had a good many stores and people in it. It was usually Saturday when I was in there so it was the busiest time. Maybe I'm wrong, but I seem to remember 1992 as being when Eastgate really went down. There was an old Jeans West that still had the words instead of the newer "JW" at the time and remember going in there a few times before it closed. In 1988, I noticed that the Camelot Music in this mall seemed a bit odd. It was a long deep store, and only had one shelf rack going the whole depth of the store and it was off-center, almost as if two were intended but they only had room for one.

    Once Camelot left and all of the clothing stores like Jeans West were gone, I only visited the mall to see how it was continuing to go downhill.

    I remember the Proffitt's looking very dated inside, even for the late 80s and early 90s. Their clothing racks were taller than what most department stores use nowadays and as a result, they blocked a lot of the view of the rest of the store and gave the store a very "closed-in" feeling. Most clothing stores have racks that are short enough to allow seeing over them into the rest of the store.

    Until the stores oriented toward the younger person I was then left, I liked that mall and went in it nearly every time I went to Chattanooga. What's bothering me is remembering 1992 as the big "going down" year for it rather than the late 80s. I remember going in the Jeans West and describing the store to someone who worked at the JW in Madison Square in Huntsville in late 1991 and 1992. It still had to exist at Eastgate then. I'd like to know when a lot of the stores actually closed in that mall.

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  5. Thanks for featuring this mall! I grew up in Chattanooga and can remember walking around and going to Morrison's cafeteria with my grandparents in the 80s. As a teenager, my friends and I used to hang out in the semi-deserted mall for kicks.

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  6. Shopped at this mall since I was a small kid up until it closed. By then I was married and we loved to shop there. I think our favorite thing was the Orange Julius stand they had. But the strawberry flavor was the best.

    Surprisingly this mall started out as an open air type one :)

    Here is the WIKI for it....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastgate_Mall_%28Chattanooga%29

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  7. Hello...."The Curator", from the MALL HALL OF FAME here.

    Great job on the article...I just wanted to add a few details about the aerial mall map...

    As you suspect, in 1965, the Goody's (in the upper right) would not have been there. Using the Hamilton County, Tennessee property tax assessor site as a guide, it is indicated that this 2-level structure was added to the complex in the year 2000.

    Loveman's would have also been substantially smaller in 1965. This store was probably expanded when the shopping center was enclosed, in 1972-1973.

    Having visited the mall many times in the mid-to-late 1970s, I can add that the cinema (in the lower right of the aerial-mall map)was configured differently than is shown.

    You can check out the "Circa-1966" EASTGATE CENTER physical layout, in my "Eastgate Center" / Mall Hall of Fame / Tennessee archive section.

    The cinema was accessed from the outside of the mall. Lines into the lobby came in on the east-facing facade (I don't recall any connection from the interior mallway...but there was a large -dark- court area to the northeast of Loveman's).

    There was no mallway corridor (indicated in orange) running through the southeast corner. This area would have mostly been occupied by said Cinema (which took that entire corner of the mall...and was expanded two or three times after 1965).

    Lastly, someone mentioned a Woolworth at Eastgate Center/Mall. It was, in fact, a G.C. Murphy...which opened in September 1962 and was there until around 1983.

    Cheers,

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  8. I do not remember a GC Murphy store there at all. There was a large Woolworth store with lunch counter directly north of the theatre. They sold everything: Birds, Turtles and lots of HO model trains. Just west of the Theatre within the mall was the A&M Toy Store. They also had a huge amount of model trains. In addition to Orange Julius I remember Wicks 'N' Sticks, Magnavox TV store, Winn Dixie food store. Miller Brothers became Millers. There was a large swan pool in the very center of the open mall. JCPenny had an auto service center across the parking lot from their store. the Lovemans store has protruding bricks and I got in trouble for climbing up 1/3 of the way up the side of the building. The Sears outlet store was a minor building right beside the 1820-1840 Brainerd Cemetery .. not the office building outlined above and was built much later. There were two owners of the mall: older north end was owned by Provident and the south by another. There was a pedestrian corridor east to west which divided the north section from the south. Last time I visited when there was still a full mall was sometime in the middle 1990s. There was one empty store site which was full of pictures and history of the mall from the very beginning.

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  9. Millers is in fact where the Goodys was until the newer part was built on to the side closest to brainerd rd I think you have it labeled unknown. Goodys moved into that part until they bankrupt and then sat empty about a year. Now the unknown labeled area left of millers is now OFFICE DEPOT today and the Millers is now City Trends, a clothing store.

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  10. There was both a Murphys and a Woolworths. How do I know? I preferred Murphys because they had a better Toy Department. My grandmother preferred Woolworth.

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    1. Yes, there was both and both had lunch counters for awhile. Woolworths had a pet dept. while Murphy's was big on school supplies and toys.

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  11. that is correct. there was a murphy's and a woolworth's. the sear's store was something else before it was sear's but can't remember what. it was one of those stores that you could save up stamps and the items in the store were priced at different stamp values.

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  12. Murphy's was on the west side of the mall mext to JC Penney. Woolworth was almost directly across from JC Penney on the East side (next to the theater as mentioned before). It was a three-screen theater, and I remember going there to see Return of the Jedi when I was 8 or 9 at most. Woolworth was there long after GC Murphy, and only closed when the company liquidated as a whole.

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  13. Thanks for the info on the mall. We moved to East Ridge in 1968 and it was the only Mall in the entire city. I learned to drive in the parking lot on Sunday's with my Dad in front of Loveman's. I was in high school at ERHS then and we would hang around the mall as teenagers do. Such memories. We moved from East Ridge in 1972 to Charlotte, NC. The mall was interesting as an open air mall, but it was better after enclosed. Rather like Lenox Square in Atlanta, it originally was an open air mall too... and was the first 'Mall' in the southeast in 1959 when it opened. I feel bad about Eastgate finally going down the tubes. We have a large mall in Charlotte called Eastland Mall and it opened in 1975 and is now completely closed. It suffered basically the same fate as Eastgate... as the neighborhood went downhill badly from the 70's to now. It's basically the HOOD now. So sad.

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  14. I grew up with this mall as did several others who've commented. E/G went through several changes during it's life and bears little resemblance to the time when it was the only mall in the entire region. I remember before they enclosed it, there was a swan pool in the center (later converted to a landscaped waterfall). As mentioned there were the 3 main anchor stores along with a G.C. Murphy's and a Woolworth's, A&M Toy Store, Lerner's, National Shirt Shops, Hickory Farms, Ira Trivers (a local men's haberdasher) and many others. At E/G Cinema, I saw everything from "Jaws" and "Star Wars" to late-night features after high school games ("Let It Be," "Rocky Horror Picture Show," etc.). Even took my wife there on our first date. E/G endured floods, the aforementioned lack of interstate access, and competition from the north side (Northgate in Hixson), but when Hamilton Place opened, it proved too much. E/G finally faded in the early Nineties. My 2 sons had their first few visits with Santa there as I did decades before. Wonderful, bittersweet memories of a mall--and an era, long gone.

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  15. Ah...Part of my childhood. Don't remember the open air days as I was born in 77 but I do remember going every Saturday. Remember the first time mom let me go off on my own for the first time. Used to buy model airplanes at the toy store..(what was the name of that toy store??) I don't think it was KB. That came in at Hamilton Place. Anyway, used to love going to get a Strawberry Julius and hot dog at the Orange Julius. Then got to the "I'm to cool" pre-teen years and spent my time there only at Camelote Music. Ahh.....What I wouldn't give to relive my childhoold.

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  16. Remember the arcade there. Right across from a haircut place that had large bright orange and brown 70's disco style hair cutting stations. My mom got her hair cut there...when it was haircut time and dad didn't have time to take me to his barber downtown (north shore) , then I had to go here. There was ALWAYS a friend from school in this arcade who could see me and laugh at me while getting my haircut in that dancing queen themed hair place.....still shudder thinking about it.

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  17. The green unknown at the top left of the pic was Morrisons cafeteria. Best place to eat. God I miss this mall. When me and my wife got together we went to Eastgate. then when it closed we went to Northgate for a while. Then to Hamilton Place. We still go to HP. To just remember my mom walking those halls in Eastgate. She is gone now and so is her shopping place. It's now some ugly ass business center.

    And yes I recall the arcade. I got my wife so many stuffed animals from the crane game there. I remember Eastgate, Northgate, Hamilton Place, Cleveland Mall, Bradley Square, and The Village.

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  18. There was a restuarant in EG That had French Cuisine. Please what was the name of it? It was mid 1980's and it was located near the South entrances. Help please.

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  19. Does anyone know the name of the little French Restaurant at the south entrance to Eastgate back in the mid 1980's? Thanks

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  20. Eastgate Town Center is a very viable piece of commercial real estate. I think people with good business sense and with some creative thinking, Eastgate Town Center will be playing a major role in the economic development of Chattanooga. Visit http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/16/eastgate-adding-companies-jobs-in-chattanooga/ and also read about Tennessee state workers offices moving to Eastgate at http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/sep/06/tennessee-state-workers-leave-downtown-relocate-ea/ So hopefully this is GREAT news for some who think Eastgate is already dead or going down the tubes.

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  21. If the new property manager continues as he is doing, unethically evicting tenants and trying to take over one business for himself, the mall may find itself in a legal battle it doesn't want to be involved in.

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  22. When I worked for Payless ShoeSource as a manager, I opened our store at Eastgate Mall in 1986. Eastgate was hopping then, as Hamilton Place had yet to open. Saturday traffic at Eastgate was usually very heavy, and one had to fight the crowds to get from point A to point B. Our store did tremendously well, and I remember the guys at Kinney Shoes hated for us to be there. Hey, but business is business. lol I have fond memories of old Eastgate Mall, having first shopped there with my parents when it was still an open air mall. That must have been in the mid sixties. BTW, there was an F. W. Woolworths at Eastgate, and not a G. C. Murphy.

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    1. There was a G C Murphy, absolutely positive. Can't say about Woolworth, I don't remember it if there was one.

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  23. There WAS a G.C. Murphy from the very beginning. Yes, there was Woolworth also. But I can't believe people have commented there wasn't a G.C. Murphy. And it had a pet department also. Trust me. Also they would sell baby chicks and baby rabbits around Easter. There's no telling how many goldfish we purchased from there.

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  24. There was both a GC Murphy and Woolworth's. I loved them both. We even have home movies of the Murphy's. There was also a Murphy's at Northgate. Both did have lunch counters as my friends mom worked at Murphy's lunch counter. There was also a Hickory Farms, So Fro Fabrics, Firestone, Children's Photographer, Morrison's Cafeteria, A&M Toys, Winn Dixie, Coles (Revco) Drug Store, Eckerd's, Parklane Hoisery, Pick A Daisy, Jeans West, Mary Ann Bake Shop, Three Sisters, National Shirt Shop, Bells Shoe Store, Baker's Shoes, Candle Cabin, Kings Quarters Men's Hair Salon, Gateway Book Store, and others I cannot think of.

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