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Old 04-23-2018, 12:22 PM
 
Location: A Yankee in northeast TN
12,696 posts, read 16,269,810 times
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As someone originally from the outside I have to say it's all about location. The first time I went to the Bristol Mall I drove past the entrance without realizing it was there, and once I found it I was dismayed to find that it was pretty much out in a cow pasture with nothing else around it other than a Krogers and a bunch of fast food places on HWY 11.
I've been to KPT dozens of times for various things and I read this and couldn't recall if I had even seen the mall there. So I googled it, recognized the intersection of FT Henry Dr and Eastman RD, but didn't realize that was near the mall. Street view shows me that I have been past it but never really 'noticed' it. The signage is terrible, the landscaping is drab and doesn't declare it as anything special, it looks dumpy and depressing. The worst thing to me is that it suffers from the same thing the Bristol Mall did, lack of anything interesting nearby. Who puts a mall in the middle of a residential area? That is the kiss of death right there. If I want to make a day of shopping there need to be other stores, shopping centers, eateries, etc. in the same area.
Johnson City got that right with the location of their mall, you can go to dozens and dozens of other places all in the same general area so it's much more fun and convenient. Half the time our actual destination is some other place but we wind up going to the mall because it's convenient to the restaurant we like, the Target we go to, the body art place, the furniture store we shopped at, so on and so forth.
If KPT can't come up with some one of a kind, or simply amazing draw to make it an actual destination for people on the weekends I just don't see it going anywhere. I sure wouldn't go out of my way and make the drive from Bristol for what's there now.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
29,180 posts, read 21,994,118 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarsonST View Post
It seems to me that many of our old "hangouts" are becoming haunts. How many will admit saying to their child(ren) "When I was growing up, we hung out there." Places such as the Ft. Henry Mall, the Gold Mine, the skating rink, familiar parking lots are becoming has beens- and we don't even have a skating rink anymore. I was there almost every time the doors were open. Our young adults really have nothing like we had back in the day. I don't understand why things have taken the place of just hanging out and having fun because most all of us want our kids to stay away from drugs but also to have good clean fun as a youngster. What happened to spending all your yard mowing money on pieces and parts for your 'race car' to cruise and look good on Broad Street and not having the money to take your girl to anywhere but a fast food place? Most of the time, we didn't care because we looked good in that passenger seat with you!
The lack of wholesome things to do is a major problem in Kingsport. I grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s. The mall was still in decent shape then. A lot of the kids I grew up with would go to the mall on Friday or Saturday evenings. My parents would give me $10-$20 for an Icee and a CD or something. There were enough of us that knew each other to keep each other company for a few hours without getting into trouble.

You also had places like Rascals, the skating rink behind some business on Stone Drive (don't remember it's name), Skateland (in front of where Big Lots was), and all sorts of little things here and there that have long since closed their doors.

Several months ago, some teenager was killed at Hog Wild by another teenager, at 2:00 AM on a Thursday or Friday morning. Neither were of legal age to be in a bar. The kid that was killed was a cousin of former DB player and Crockett coach Gerald Sensabaugh. I remember reading the comments on his personal Facebook page about the kid's death, and someone mentioned that part of the reason the kids around here are so drugged up and into crime these days is that there are very few wholesome things to do in Kingsport anymore, especially for kids. I completely agree.

I'd much rather have the kids running around a mall being a bit of a nuisance instead of at Hog Wild.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:53 PM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
667 posts, read 839,980 times
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Nearly every mid-sized and larger metro in the country has one mall that is still successful. The Tri-Cities is too small to support three malls and the JC mall won out primarily due to Johnson City's economic success and growth over the past 20-30 years compared to the rest of the region. The mall's location, as DubbleT alluded to, is probably a significant factor as well. That corridor is highly trafficked, close to I-26, and is pretty dense and easy to navigate. I'm guessing this is the primary reason Target chose to remodel their existing store in JC rather than build a new store on State of Franklin or in Boones Creek.

Regarding population numbers, I would be wary of looking strictly at county numbers without considering the larger picture. For example, there is a good deal of residential development occurring along the Bristol Highway between Winged Deer Park and Piney Flats. All of this is in Sullivan County but within the JC city limits so future population growth in Sullivan County might also be Johnson City growth rather than Kingsport or Bristol.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:57 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
29,180 posts, read 21,994,118 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DubbleT View Post
As someone originally from the outside I have to say it's all about location. The first time I went to the Bristol Mall I drove past the entrance without realizing it was there, and once I found it I was dismayed to find that it was pretty much out in a cow pasture with nothing else around it other than a Krogers and a bunch of fast food places on HWY 11.
I've been to KPT dozens of times for various things and I read this and couldn't recall if I had even seen the mall there. So I googled it, recognized the intersection of FT Henry Dr and Eastman RD, but didn't realize that was near the mall. Street view shows me that I have been past it but never really 'noticed' it. The signage is terrible, the landscaping is drab and doesn't declare it as anything special, it looks dumpy and depressing. The worst thing to me is that it suffers from the same thing the Bristol Mall did, lack of anything interesting nearby. Who puts a mall in the middle of a residential area? That is the kiss of death right there. If I want to make a day of shopping there need to be other stores, shopping centers, eateries, etc. in the same area.
Johnson City got that right with the location of their mall, you can go to dozens and dozens of other places all in the same general area so it's much more fun and convenient. Half the time our actual destination is some other place but we wind up going to the mall because it's convenient to the restaurant we like, the Target we go to, the body art place, the furniture store we shopped at, so on and so forth.
If KPT can't come up with some one of a kind, or simply amazing draw to make it an actual destination for people on the weekends I just don't see it going anywhere. I sure wouldn't go out of my way and make the drive from Bristol for what's there now.
There used to be more around the Fort Henry Mall. There used to be a Bojangles at the corner of Memorial and Fort Henry where the Walgreens is. There was a Food Lion and Revco across the street where the Big Lots is. There was a Ryan's steakhouse directly across from the mall. There was a skating rink on the side of the road that Food City is on, a CD store where the Asian grocery is, and a few other places. That may not be destination retail, but it was not nearly as bad as it is now.

The Bristol mall was renovated a decade or so ago, and was actually in much, much better shape inside than the Fort Henry Mall was before its most recent renovations. Garfield's in Bristol closed, but a fairly upscale place called T. Gordon's was in there in the latter days of the mall, and was quite good. The Belk/Profitt's in there was broken up in two like Johnson City and was nicer than Kingsport. The Bristol mall seemed to have some momentum, then once The Pinnacle was announced, it all kind of fell apart. The thing about the Bristol Mall was that a lot of the retail just went down the road to The Pinnacle - it didn't completely leave town like it has in Kingsport.

The Bristol Mall is truly at what was the then edge of town. I think its placement was poor.
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Old 04-23-2018, 01:07 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
29,180 posts, read 21,994,118 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rangerred View Post
Nearly every mid-sized and larger metro in the country has one mall that is still successful. The Tri-Cities is too small to support three malls and the JC mall won out primarily due to Johnson City's economic success and growth over the past 20-30 years compared to the rest of the region. The mall's location, as DubbleT alluded to, is probably a significant factor as well. That corridor is highly trafficked, close to I-26, and is pretty dense and easy to navigate. I'm guessing this is the primary reason Target chose to remodel their existing store in JC rather than build a new store on State of Franklin or in Boones Creek.

Regarding population numbers, I would be wary of looking strictly at county numbers without considering the larger picture. For example, there is a good deal of residential development occurring along the Bristol Highway between Winged Deer Park and Piney Flats. All of this is in Sullivan County but within the JC city limits so future population growth in Sullivan County might also be Johnson City growth rather than Kingsport or Bristol.
And the malls that are succeeding are almost always the ones in the more affluent areas and with the higher end stores. That fits Johnson City to a "T."

We've been talking about the malls, but The Pinnacle probably has as much retail square footage as the Fort Henry and Bristol Malls do. That's not even counting the dining and entertainment options available at The Pinnacle, which IMO are now far and above what the area malls ever had to offer.
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Old 04-23-2018, 02:31 PM
 
Location: Johnson City, TN
667 posts, read 839,980 times
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Quote:
The Bristol Mall is truly at what was the then edge of town. I think its placement was poor.
And I think this will eventually doom The Pinnacle. It's a sprawling 1990's-style development at the edge of town. Why wasn't it at least built in the current popular "faux-urban" style with a walkable streetscape and mixed-use buildings? Rents were heavily subsidized and it will be interesting to see what happens when terms are up in a few years.

I've said it before but brick and mortar retail is quickly becoming centered on destination and experience-based shopping. Places like REI, Mast General Store, and others (including Mahoney's in JC) do well because they offer that extra experience that many people are willing to pay a bit more for. Naturally though, these places will locate in cities and regions that are better off economically eliminating much of our region other than Johnson City. It's an unfortunate downward spiral.
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Old 04-23-2018, 03:06 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
29,180 posts, read 21,994,118 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rangerred View Post
And I think this will eventually doom The Pinnacle. It's a sprawling 1990's-style development at the edge of town. Why wasn't it at least built in the current popular "faux-urban" style with a walkable streetscape and mixed-use buildings? Rents were heavily subsidized and it will be interesting to see what happens when terms are up in a few years.

I've said it before but brick and mortar retail is quickly becoming centered on destination and experience-based shopping. Places like REI, Mast General Store, and others (including Mahoney's in JC) do well because they offer that extra experience that many people are willing to pay a bit more for. Naturally though, these places will locate in cities and regions that are better off economically eliminating much of our region other than Johnson City. It's an unfortunate downward spiral.
I think there is room for both. There is quite a large section of the population that still shops at Walmart, goes to malls or lifestyle centers like The Pinnacle, and are fairly averse to buying things online. I think that's even more true for Kingsport and Bristol. The Pinnacle is probably "best of breed" for that concept, other than Turkey Creek in Knoxville.

Restaurants like Cheddars are always full around here. The people that frequent Cheddars are not the same people who frequent something like Boomtown or REI generally. Two different markets.

We've historically had way too many suburban "mall hell" developments, but that's a far cry from saying the best of breed of that concept is not viable.
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Old 04-23-2018, 09:42 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
7,135 posts, read 10,430,789 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
One thing to keep in mind is that not all malls are doing poorly across the country. Higher end malls tend to be doing better. The Johnson City Mall, at least for the better part of two decades, has been the higher end, "destination" mall between Knoxville and Asheville.

The Johnson City Mall has typically had the first or only of a store in the area (Hollister, American Eagle, Aeropostale all came to JC first - JC has the only remaining Sears, only Hot Topic, and some smaller stuff) and much nicer Belk/Penney's than Kingsport has had. That mindset of JC Mall being in first place really hasn't changed.
Yeah, I typically only think of larger metros when I apply this thinking to malls, and keep thinking of Johnson City's mall as not being in a "larger metro." Granted, JC's metro is around 200k, and the entire tri-cities region, with VA, is around 500k, so it's a decently large mid-size area.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
Even with all the efforts into rehabilitating the Fort Henry Mall, you can't win back your customers overnight. As Fort Henry declined, consumer behavior shifted to other shopping centers in the area. I don't know how, or even if, that can change, but I remain skeptical that it will. I think the mall was simply too far gone, which caused people to shop elsewhere, for too long, which caused people to completely dismiss the mall in the state it was in. Honestly, I think it would have been better if the mall had outright closed rather than continuing on in a zombie-like state for years. A full rehab and grand reopening would have created a buzz that might have generated enough momentum to keep going. At this point, it seems they've lost any steam they had, and I don't expect the mall to regain it.
I think what may happen with Ft Henry, is that it will just sit empty until uses start to populate the center such as discount stores, a church, community center, etc., and those stores will intermix with a few of the "stronger" stores that do good business, like the theater, Piccadilly, Belk, and Italian Village....I believe you are right, the zombie state may be one of a permanent state.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Conversation View Post
I went to the Johnson City Mall Saturday for the food truck rally. My girlfriend wanted to go shopping and we bought a few things. We wouldn't have come without the food truck rally. I haven't been to the Fort Henry Mall in months - maybe since Christmas. The Fort Henry Mall, aside from the big carnival they have in the Sears parking lot, never does anything "fun" to at least get people on the property, at which point they might do some shopping. A food truck rally and things like that are not "culturally Kingsport." This kind of stuck in a rut mindset has to change for the mall to have any chance at success, and more broadly, for Kingsport to find some sort of meaningful identity in the future.
If it keeps being stagnant as-is, with a lack of creativity and business savvy that the management does not seem to really have, I can see it eventually being completely razed in 8-10 years. A good replacement for that location could wind up being a big theater, with maybe a grocery store and a couple other restaurants.

As-is, they literally have nothing to lure in customers. The mindset seems to be one of the late '80s. That mindset is going to put a padlock on the front door sooner rather than later unfortunately.
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Old 04-23-2018, 09:50 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn, NY
7,135 posts, read 10,430,789 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DubbleT View Post
As someone originally from the outside I have to say it's all about location. The first time I went to the Bristol Mall I drove past the entrance without realizing it was there, and once I found it I was dismayed to find that it was pretty much out in a cow pasture with nothing else around it other than a Krogers and a bunch of fast food places on HWY 11.
I've been to KPT dozens of times for various things and I read this and couldn't recall if I had even seen the mall there. So I googled it, recognized the intersection of FT Henry Dr and Eastman RD, but didn't realize that was near the mall. Street view shows me that I have been past it but never really 'noticed' it. The signage is terrible, the landscaping is drab and doesn't declare it as anything special, it looks dumpy and depressing. The worst thing to me is that it suffers from the same thing the Bristol Mall did, lack of anything interesting nearby. Who puts a mall in the middle of a residential area? That is the kiss of death right there. If I want to make a day of shopping there need to be other stores, shopping centers, eateries, etc. in the same area.
Johnson City got that right with the location of their mall, you can go to dozens and dozens of other places all in the same general area so it's much more fun and convenient. Half the time our actual destination is some other place but we wind up going to the mall because it's convenient to the restaurant we like, the Target we go to, the body art place, the furniture store we shopped at, so on and so forth.
If KPT can't come up with some one of a kind, or simply amazing draw to make it an actual destination for people on the weekends I just don't see it going anywhere. I sure wouldn't go out of my way and make the drive from Bristol for what's there now.
This is spot-on, in terms of your location assessment. Johnson City had the fortunate foresight to put the JC Mall right near I-26 and bustling Roan Street, an ideally situated spot for heavy-trafficked retail.

On-the-other-hand, Kingsport, had the unfortunate lack of foresight to place Fort Henry Mall at the intersection of Fort Henry Drive and Memorial Boulevard. These are two roadways in Kingsport that are decently trafficked, but are not Stone Drive or near an interstate intersection. The closest "bypass highway" is John B. Dennis, which is about half mile away.

The area near the mall, as mentioned, has mostly greatly declined in terms of retail options, over the years. When Fort Henry Mall opened, that area was pretty busy with a lot of prime retail options and restaurants. But over the past 10-20 years, the retail has shifted with the mall's decline, and some storefronts are completely vacant, while others have become "discount" or "mom and pop" shops. If you drive past the mall towards Center Street's intersection with Memorial Boulevard, you'll get a nice visual of the faded storefronts that were once bustling, to now half-vacant or somewhat dumpy looking.

And you are right. As it stands now, the only reason to go to Fort Henry is the theater. Nothing else there is a draw really. So, this is going to be the ultimate demise of that mall--no reason to visit it really.
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Old 04-24-2018, 10:16 AM
 
Location: Madison, AL
440 posts, read 370,054 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DubbleT View Post
As someone originally from the outside I have to say it's all about location. The first time I went to the Bristol Mall I drove past the entrance without realizing it was there, and once I found it I was dismayed to find that it was pretty much out in a cow pasture with nothing else around it other than a Krogers and a bunch of fast food places on HWY 11.
I've been to KPT dozens of times for various things and I read this and couldn't recall if I had even seen the mall there. So I googled it, recognized the intersection of FT Henry Dr and Eastman RD, but didn't realize that was near the mall. Street view shows me that I have been past it but never really 'noticed' it. The signage is terrible, the landscaping is drab and doesn't declare it as anything special, it looks dumpy and depressing. The worst thing to me is that it suffers from the same thing the Bristol Mall did, lack of anything interesting nearby. Who puts a mall in the middle of a residential area? That is the kiss of death right there. If I want to make a day of shopping there need to be other stores, shopping centers, eateries, etc. in the same area.
So it's kind of important to remember that all 3 malls are over 40 years old. They were built where a large expanse of relatively flat land was available. This is not so easy given the terrain of the Tri-Cities. The Fort Henry Mall was built on the former Roller Woods, which was a rare tract of empty flattish land within the city on a major commercial corridor. (Yes, Ft. Henry drive is a major commercial corridor, just ask Walmart.) Only other option would have been to go onto Stone Drive which eventually the small mall which contained the Martin Theatre and Montgomery Ward did. (But that site is not as large as the Fort Henry Mall site.) And back then Eastman Road was a two lane traffic jam.

You draw a circle around the Fort Henry Mall site and you encompass a lot of households. So I would argue that it was a great site for its time. (Though in fact there was substantial opposition to the site - "Don't Mall our Woods.")

Bristol Mall was out of the way a bit, but near Highway 11 which was a major commercial corridor at the time, and Bristol Mall is also on a major route to I-81. Volunteer Parkway might have had more appeal, but again problematic to obtain a large flat tract of land and not be out in the boondocks.

Both malls were very prosperous for years. Now the Bristol Mall is padlocked, while the Fort Henry Mall (now bearing its original name once again) is struggling and hoping to revitalize. Will that work - time will tell.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjbradleynyc View Post
If it keeps being stagnant as-is, with a lack of creativity and business savvy that the management does not seem to really have, I can see it eventually being completely razed in 8-10 years. A good replacement for that location could wind up being a big theater, with maybe a grocery store and a couple other restaurants.

As-is, they literally have nothing to lure in customers. The mindset seems to be one of the late '80s. That mindset is going to put a padlock on the front door sooner rather than later unfortunately.
I think it is a bit premature to write off the new FHM management. The mall was on the path to closing, and they seem to be having some success bringing in new tenants. I don't know that they will succeed, but certainly they are giving it a try and it cannot be accomplished overnight.

It's a shame that the IMAX theatre was never built. That would have been a draw, but I can find no recent references so I expect that plan is dead. (The movie market in Tri Cities is kind of weird anyway, with the 7 screen theatre off I-81 hanging to life even with the former outlet center around it being almost completely dead.)
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