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.