(WBIR - Knoxville) For years, East Towne Mall was the place to be.
But a decade after the mall changed its name to Knoxville Center Mall, it is still struggling to keep stores and customers.
"People who have lived out here for years, like myself, have watched the decline of the mall," said District 4 Knoxville City Councilman, Nick Della Volpe.
Some might blame the economy, but Della Volpe and businesses in the area say access and visibility are the shopping area's main problems.
The infrastructure around the mall makes it difficult for drivers to see the stores and surrounding businesses, including Walmart, Target, Lowes, and Home Depot.
Della Volpe said the trees and brush have grown up over the decades creating a barrier.
"You're blinded. You don't know what is on top of this big green wall and as it turns out there's a mall with at least 60 stores and 60 more independently owned stores you just can't see," he said. "Out of sight, out of mind. People don't know to stop here."
There is also only one exit off of I-640 to access to the shopping district. Della Volpe worries once people realize it is there, it is either too late or too much of a hassle for them to turn around.
He also wants to add signage to display the stores to drivers. So far, he has run into road blocks from the state. He said the law doesn't allow cities to add signs within the city limits. Della Volpe wants to change that.
"We're hoping with a little bit of help this area flourishes. When the business opportunity is there, the signage is there, those guys are going to knock down some doors to put their store here," he said.
Della Volpe is spearheading an effort to fix these problems. Wednesday he held a community meeting to jump start the conversation about his proposed changes that included State and city leaders.
The next step, he says, is working with Department of Transportation and the state legislature to get the projects going.