Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Northgate Mall: Hixson, TN

Chattanooga in its history has had three major shopping malls. The first has basically reverted to offices, but the second, Northgate Mall, is alive and well. It should also be noted this is the Northgate most people are familiar with in lieu of the peculiar one in Tullahoma on my previous post. Owned by General Growth, this successful mall is today anchored by Sears, Belk, JCPenney and Belk Home Store. While it is only one level in lieu of Hamilton Place's two levels, it is still a fairly large mall with 120 stores. It is located on SR 153 north of the city past the end of the Airport Freeway, and it largely serves the northern suburbs as well as Rhea County to the north.

Center court is quite lush with vegetation and has a quite elegant looking skylight over it. I have to wonder how much of this is original.

While the mall dwarfs in comparison with Hamilton Place, apparently Chattanooga is a city that needs and can support two malls. Northgate is not the kind of draw that Hamilton Place is, but its location in the center of a significant suburban area north of the Tennessee River gives it plenty of business. In fact, the strip along SR 153 is one of the most congested areas in the city, and the mall is much more convenient to US 27/Corridor J than Hamilton Place.

Two scenes along the mall concourse. The second photo with the lush vegetation features the mall's Chick-Fil-A on the left, which is not part of the very small food court.

Northgate is basically an I-shaped mall with an anchor in the middle attached, JCPenney. The courts are small with high ceilings and full of trees and plants. The mall has a small food court attached to the Belk Home Store and the mall also has a Piccadilly Cafeteria from the older era. The mall also has a few businesses outside the mall with only exterior entrances. In additoin, the Belk Home Store has two mall entrances and is essentially a junior anchor using existing in-line mall space.

Sears entrance court.

Northgate Mall first appeared in 1972 as Chattanooga's first enclosed mall. It was originally built by CBL, which is headquartered in Chattanooga. CBL still operates Hamilton Place Mall, but has since sold Northgate. Northgate was also expanded in 1991 and renovated in 1997. The 1991 expansion was most likely for the food court and Hess's/Proffitt's Home Store. The anchor lineup would have been pretty static if not of the numerous anchor changes of one of the department stores. While Sears and Penney's are both original anchors, the western end was originally anchored by Miller Bros. Co of Chattanooga. Miller Brothers became Miller's of Tennessee in 1973. In 1988, Miller's was sold to Hess's and the store later became Proffitt's in 1992. Proffitt's sold out to Belk in 2006, which resulted in both the Proffitt's and Proffitt's Home Store taking on the Belk name.

Looking at the Belk (Proffitt's, Hess's, Miller's) mall entrance. The Belk sign looks very much like an afterthought with the store having three other identities. The marble facade is original, however. The last photo is looking back from Belk/Miller's at the court and play area. Like many late 60's/early 70's malls, each anchor had a small court with it in the mall including at least one side hallway to an outside entrance.

My impressions of Northgate Mall is that is was a reasonably attractive, busy and well maintained mall. However, with my love of oddities and angles in malls I found its layout rather boring. I think at least a unique fountain in the center court would have been a plus for the mall as well as some far more elaborate ceiling decor. While the inside of the mall is pleasant, the outside of the mall looks pretty dated. The Belk has one of the ugliest department store designs I believe I have ever seen. It's dark brick and weird entryway remind me of the outside of a prison. Inside, though, the store is quite attractive. JCPenney looks like a giant space station. Sears is the most basic store with a fairly typical early 70's design. I think I would have liked the mall a bit better if somewhere in the mall it dropped down into a small lower level like the one I ran across at Greenbriar Mall.

If this is supposed to be a food court, it is the most pitiful excuse for one. A couple restaurants and other businesses operate here in this mid-mall side jog between Penney's and Sears. This is also where the second entrance to the Belk/Proffitt's Home Store is located.

In all, though, this is in my opinion Chattanooga's real mall today. This is the one for the city and the one with more history. The people out of Northwest Georgia and East Tennessee will fight the crowds for Hamilton Place, but the mall to me looks to be for people who actually live there and don't want to fight traffic to look for something in a picked over mall. It is also a manageable mall compared to the overload of anchors at Hamilton Place that ended up with two Belks and two Dillard's. With that, they are bound to be appreciative of Northgate. They are lucky to have it, because similar size cities such as Augusta, GA now have only one mall for their entire city after their second mall died away.

A couple views of the Belk Home Store from the mall. The first is taken along the main mall concourse and the second is in the food court wing.

JCPenney mall entrance is located directly off the center court.

Another view of center court, this time looking toward Sears instead of Belk.

Walking out of the side entrance next to Sears approaching Piccadilly. Piccadilly has been here since the mall opened.

An outside view of all the anchors as they look today. All three anchors are very stark forms of brutalism, especially the hideous Belk/Miller's. Miller's mall stores were notoriously stark and bland. JCPenney looks like some sort of pseudo factory. Sears is plain and simple.

Below are some photos of Proffitt's from 2005:

The Proffitt's sign really looks bad on this cell-like brick exterior. The Home Store was obviously a later idea, judging by its green sign vs. the old Miller's. Proffitt's stores opened in the 1990's and 00's had a green sign.


  1. The Belk Home Store and Food Court occupy what was originally a G.C. Murphy junior anchor. Northgate opened in 1971, with the JCPenney being one of the first to bear the new logo-Eastgate had the cool 60's Penney's logo. Sears came in 1973.

    The Piccadilly Cafeteria had a Gothic decor theme, something it shared with the Cumberland Mall location. Northgate Cimemas long left the Miller's/Hess's/Proffitt's/Belk end of the mall for the outparcel location.

    Eastgate Mall was an open air mall prior to Northgate, enclosed to compete with its upstart rival.

    Loveman's remained in nearby Highland Plaza until the late 80's, originally planning to move to the mall in the old Murphy space. Proffit's closed the store after acquiring the chain, only to end up in the mall via Hess's.

  2. I've always liked this mall. When I first started going to Chattanooga, Hamilton Place, Eastgate, and Northgate were the malls, and after Eastgate really started going downhill in 1992 and 1993, emptying up considerably, Northgate was the "alternative" to Hamilton Place.

    One interesting thing happened to me in the Northgate Sears one Sunday evening nearly 20 years ago. I forgot about Chattanooga being on Eastern Time and went to the restroom and everything was still open. About 15 minutes later, I came out and the store was dark and nobody was around. Fortunately, I was able to get out the door. That place shut down very quickly that afternoon.

    When I used to eat at Piccadilly often, I always found the one at Northgate to be of excellent quality with a larger selection of food through the line and better consistency and always made it a point to eat there if it were around dinner time. With so many Piccadilly's closing, I wondered if it were still there, and wondered if it was originally a Morrison's as many Piccadilly's were.

    I think this mall has held up very well considering its age.

  3. Information about movie theatres around Northgate:

    The Martin chain opened the Northgate Cinema at some point between July 1970 and July 1972. Martin then opened the Northgate 2 and 3 during the July 1974 to July 1975 time period.

    Later, Martin made the Northgate Cinema into 2 screens between July 1980 and July 1982, and the Northgate 2 and 3 into 4 screens during the last weekend of June 1982. After the reconfigurations, these were called the Northgate 1 and 2, and the Northgate 3, 4, 5, and 6. These names went away at some point during the July 1990 to July 1992 time period and the Carmike Northgate 8 appeared. From the ads, it's not clear whether this was an expansion of one of the older complexes or a totally new construction or replacement. (Remember, Martin Theatres became Carmike Cinemas in late 1985).

    Litchfield Theatres opened a multiplex called the Northgate Crossing 6 during the first half of 1983. This eventually became a Regal location.

    Of course, now there is a Carmike 14-plex, the Northgate 14.

    Someday, I need to make another trip to the Chattanooga library and refine my information on these and find the actual grand opening dates for all of the complexes.

  4. Belk isn't THAT ugly. It's no beauty, understand, but in 1971, this was considered high style anchor design. Same with JCPenney, which I really don't enjoy. There's too many details without a reasonable explanation why.

    One thing I dig is that the mall courts are so wide that it made more sense to keep the anchor store showcases than to eliminate them. This has to be the last (or close to the last) example of the old rounded showcase frames at a JCPenney store. I love those things. So many memories of us driving slow past the mall so my mom could see what was in the windows.

    Were the auto centers for Sears and Penney still on site? Those era stores would have had auto centers with gas canopies, a rare site these days, to be sure.

  5. I used to go to this mall when I was a kid. About the author's comment about needing a fountain, I remember there being a nice fountain in the middle when I was there in the late 70s. The de-fountain, pro-pastel mall conversion trend hit this mall too obviously. I watched the original starwars at the mall cinema (not a connected building) .

    I remember Miller Bros and G.C. Murphy, and if I remember correctly, there was a burger king inside the mall, but not in a food court area..

  6. The mall opened in 1972 not 1971. Yes there was a Burger King directly across the entrance to the food court. It is now a shoe store.

  7. The Sears auto center is still there,the JcPenny auto Center is now Firestone,but is still in place,The JcPenny Auto building is still standing at EastGate but i am not sure what it is these days,I remember the Burger King in the mall in the 80's not sure when it left and i also remember G.C. Murpy's there. There was also a Kroger Grocery in the lot directly across from NorthGate mall anyone remember that?

  8. I have shoppes at this mall almost 40 years. I remember the fountain, the theatres, and we did have a Burger King, a Pizza Hut and several sports bars and there is Applebee's there- the Famous Dave's BBQ just recently closed, but we still have chik- fil-a there. It's a small mall so I can get my shoppimg completed without starving to death- loads of nice restaurants all around it- Red Lobster, Chili's, Panera etc-- but i miss the Karmel Korn and Federal Bakery being right there for a sweet snack!

  9. This is one of me and my wife's original shopping places. Of course we've been going there since we were kids. I was there about a year ago and it is basically dead. Dark and empty inside. It can be a dangerous mall I hear. As we were going in there was a woman running out with about 20 pieces of clothing she stole from Sears. Cop got her in the parking lot. I wont be going back.

    In fact i see signs now that Hamilton Place is dying. The good stores are gone, less people. and they have redone the entire mall in an ugly cheap color and removed all the neon to save on energy costs. It worries me. Between the 5 places I've always visited only Hamilton Place remains really and it is giving off signs of it's death. Sad times.

    1. What if east gate got a remodle, i,s gots ideas ! Oh i dono a skating rink ,sears,office depot

  10. What if east gate remodled and got new anchors

  11. Not sure if anyone reads or updates here anymore, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Northgate had been doing pretty bad for awhile; it never lost its anchors but stores inside were dwindling and the surrounding area was beginning to lose a lot of stores to newer shopping centers down the road. It was purchased by the same company that own Hamilton Place pretty recently and they've started some pretty big updates to the mall. The out parcels and the empty theater are finally being converted into new shops, and the aging style is being updated on the interior and some exterior areas. (No clue of the seriously dated anchors will get face lifts) There also planning to build a new food court. The mall looks like it might be able to make a decent come back, but its hard to say for sure yet.

  12. I am from Chattanooga and worked at Northgate Mall. The mall was re-aquired by CBL, and is currently in the process of being remodeled. At the entrance near Applebee's, they are adding an Old Navy, which will have both external and mall entrances. In addition to this, they are adding a Burlington Coat Factory where the Picadilly Cafeteria used to be. The center court elevated "stage" has been removed and a more practical center court area is being built. The old movie theatres/TJ MAXX have been remodeled and the movie theatres were turned into a JO-Ann's Fabrics and a Ross.

  13. Just announced J C Penny is closing their Northgate store by summer 2014

  14. Ross and Michael's are now the new tenants in addition to TJ Maxx at Northgate Crossing. Burlington has opened on the back side of the mall. So far Picadilly is still vacant. An Old Chicago Restaurant will be opening in November 2014.