The most amazing thing about Parkway Plaza is that it looks like the kind of strip mall you would find in the most depressed ghetto before the graffiti artists, arsonists and vandals trashed it beyond recognition. It is that reason that you rarely find many places like this left in most cities across the country since places like this are modified or demolished in the nicer sides of town. The large push to redevelop most urban slums influences this, but some of the best mid-to-late century architecture was lost due to that logic. Kingsport, however, is one of those exceptional places hanging onto some of the retro architecture and signage left behind. The strip mall looks to be a perfectly preserved specimen straight from the 1960's in every way! Even the sign along Lynn Garden Drive (TN 36) looks like it hasn't been touched in decades, and it is in remarkably good condition. I really do not understand why but these type of cities tend to hold the most mid-century gems with East Tennessee a virtual living museum of the mid-1950's to the mid-1970's, but I do wonder how much race is a factor since the immediate area despite being very economically depressed is also very white.
The very first photo features the well-preserved modernist sign along Lynn Garden Drive (TN 36). The first photo above features the former Kroger, which is currently abandoned. Kroger looks to have left in the 1980's, but the store may have found a few tenants as late as the 90's considering it's not in worse condition. The last photo above is the former discount store which resembles some pics of Hill's or Grant's.
Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in its time was an unremarkable shopping center featuring one grocery store, Kroger, and one discount store which appeared to be Hill's, Grant's or something similar. I would not have been surprised if this wasn't the very first strip mall in the city that at the time ultimately supplemented Kingsport Mall as if it itself was a mall. In fact, Parkway Plaza is itself has a small open-air, covered mall portion. Such arcades were obviously common in the earliest strip centers to maximize space for shops that wanted into the first strip malls prior to the mall era. The arcade, however, ends at a plain wall with obviously no anchor or expansion planned. Imagine if it had, though, then Kingsport could have had its own version of Montgomery's Normandale Shopping Center.
I am looking here into the open-air mall portion in the middle looking toward the wall in the back. Too bad that was never expanded into a full-fledged open-air mall. The decay is interesting enough here, but the period design is something else.
Parkway Plaza is in an awkward location on TN 36 north of US 11W (East Stone Drive). At one time TN 36 was the main route carrying US 23, but in the 1970's it was by-passed by the TN 137 freeway, which later became I-181 and is now the northern extent of I-26. Even worse was when Kingsport Mall and later Fort Henry Malls were built, all the development shifted east towards the malls taking downtown as well. Parkway Plaza became isolated and its local community eventually chose not to support it in lieu of shopping at the better, newer options further east. Kroger eventually closed their location at Parkway Plaza consolidating all of their business into their store across from Kingsport Mall sometime later. Soon everything else moved there as well with the momentum speeding up further after Kingsport Mall was torn down and redeveloped in 2002.
Obviously whoever parked that truck there in the front of the mall part in the first photo was not a bit worried about anything happening to it. That is looking toward the parking lot and I took the picture to show the unique skylight treatment. The last photo is a look down the walkways in front of the stores out toward the mystery discounter. I edited out my vehicle in the second pic.
I can only imagine if the economy were better that Parkway Plaza would be history, probably redeveloped for a non-retail purpose such as a senior center, medical center, mid-priced motel or low income housing. Probably the main reason it was overlooked was due to the lower commercial benefit of the area as well as the push to redevelop Kingsport Mall first. While there may be one or two shops still operating in the center, it is effectively dead with little hope of revival. With no renovation other than a paint job, updating the center would be a huge investment and any renovation would probably make the center look worse since it would likely be done cheaply. The anchors are also too small to be revived in any form, so the most that would be interested in locating there would be a Dollar General. I'm just glad I got to see it before they city finally decides that this interesting, yet decrepit historical landmark is too much of a blight to leave as is.