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West Town Mall makes turning 40 look stylish!

7:42 PM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
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 The year was 1972, Richard Nixon was President of the United States, a gallon of gas cost 55 cents and in Knoxville, work was underway at West Town Mall.  

The mall was built on a farm site and held it's grand opening in August of 1972.

 "Before 1972, that area was pretty much farm land, 6 miles from the heart of downtown," says Knox County historian Steve Cotham.

"My memories are just how exciting it was to have something other than downtown where one could shop," recalls former Knoxville City Councilwoman Barbara Pelot, who lives in the West Hills Community near the mall.  "The wonderful thing I appreciated personally about West Town was being able to go inside and walk about and do all your shopping in one location. At the time it was built that was a truly unique experience for Knoxville."

The climate-control of indoor Knoxville and convenience was a big plus for many shoppers. Something that made many store owners in downtown Knoxville take notice.

 "In the 60's they decided to put a big canopy up and down Gay Street and create a mall effect there," says Cotham. "It was that time that things were not going so well. Those canopy things did keep the rain and snow off but they were really depressing and they created a real oppressive environment. That was the big push to try and compete with a mall. I think that was done in the late 60's before West Town Mall was built."

The mall offered all kinds of new and exciting stores plus familiar ones to shoppers.

 "A store called 5, 7, 9 was a store that I frequented because I was a skinny then," laughs Pelot. "We have some stores that were located at other sides of town and they moved into the mall and that was exciting to have them be a part of the West Knoxville community."
 

  The new mall helped increase development in west Knoxville, including roads.

 "At that time there was no interstate, no apartment buildings in this part of West Hills," says Pelot.  "Where we live now, it was still a meadow. West Hills has expanded."

 "The interstate played a big part in urban sprawl," says Cotham. "Kingston Pike made it easy for suburban developments to begin to build and it was that time that the subdivisions began to pop up all over the western part of the county."

 "We have achieved a very good melding .of the commercial and the neighborhood," says Pelot. "The convenience factor is incredible as you can imagine."

Today, West Town Mall is owned and operated by Simon Malls. David Huesser is the manager.

"On an ongoing basis, we're adding new retails of any where of 5 to 15 retails a year so there's constantly new activity going on," says Huesser. "We're always asking ourselves 'what can we do better to make your shopping experience better?'".

  West Town Mall and Knoxville Center Mall will open at Midnight on Friday and will remain open through Black Friday at 10 p.m.

 For more information visit www.simon.com/mall/west-town-mall

Tennessee Archive of Moving Image & Sound, TDOT and the McClung Historical Collection assisted with the video, audio and images featured in this story.

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