E-commerce warehouse at Knoxville Center Mall gets OK

The $30 million plan to build an e-commerce distribution center at Knoxville Center Mall has cleared its final city hurdle and can move forward.

Knoxville City Council approved rezoning the land for industrial use, making way for Hillwood Enterprises to build a 219,000-square-foot facility for an unnamed internet retailer.

It’s significant that a project of this size — with its rezoning requirements, neighborhood concerns and secrecy — sped through Knoxville Planning Commission and council approval without many hiccups.

Hillwood, known for developing facilities for customers like Amazon and Wayfair, made alterations and promises upfront to satisfy neighbors and officials, like shrinking its plans from two buildings to one and adhering to residential noise and light standards.

The developer has an ambitious timeline that would involve acquiring the property — split into four parcels owned by four separate entities — in December, demolishing Knoxville Center Mall in February and beginning construction in April.

Hillwood will not announce the occupant until the property has been acquired and 'Project Malibu' is underway.

The developer’s goal is to complete the building in March 2022.

The facility is expected to employ 730 people, totaling more than $22 million in annual wages.

Advocates have estimated the project would lead to the creation of an additional 630 indirect jobs in the community.

Knoxville Center Mall, also known as East Towne Mall, closed its doors in Feb. 2020 after a long decline.

The mall first opened to fanfare in 1984, but lost anchor tenant Dillard’s in 2008; In the last few years, J.C. Penney, Sears and Belk followed, along with Gold’s Gym and Regal Cinemas.

For many people, the now-empty 961,000-square-foot mall represents what once was the center of retail and social life in East Knoxville.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brenna McDermott

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org



Published November 20, 2020