ASHEVILLE MALL
South Tunnel Road / US 74 and Swannanoa River Road
Asheville, North Carolina

The first fully-enclosed, regional-class shopping facility in Asheville was built on 57.6-acres of a 78-acre parcel. This was located 3 miles southeast of the Central Business District, in the city's East Asheville section.

ASHEVILLE MALL had a rocky beginning. Developed by Asheville's R.L. Coleman & Company, construction of the complex was delayed by neighborhood opposition and battles with the local Planning & Zoning Board. Preliminary work was halted in August 1968, but was well underway by July 1970.

The mall-to-be was designed by the firms of Lyles, Bisset, Carlisle & Wolfe Architects & Engineers, of Columbia, South Carolina, and Surrat, Smith & Abernathy, of Charlotte, North Carolina. The "mammoth new shopping center" was to encompass approximately 570,600 leasable square feet and be anchored by a 2-level (159,200 square foot) Sears and predominantly 1-level (84,000 square foot) Belk of Asheville.

Sears became the first operational store, on February 23, 1972. Ground was broken for Belk, and the remainder of the mall, on May 30, 1972. Belk welcomed its first shoppers on July 25, 1973. The first inline stores opened their doors in September 1973. By mid-October, fifteen were in business. A mall-wide dedication was held November 23rd. By March 1974, the full complement of forty-five stores and services were in operation.

These included a 1-level (40,000 square foot), Asheville-based Bon Marche-East (dedicated on September 6, 1973) and 1-level (41,000 square foot), Charlotte-based Ivey's (which held its grand opening on March 14, 1974).

Some of the original inline stores were Curious Cargo, Brooks Fashions, The Man Store, The Mall Pharmacy, an S & W Carousel Buffet and 1-level (47,200 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The ABC Southeastern Mall Twin Theatres, a southwest parking area outparcel, showed its first features on July 3, 1975.

The very first expansion at ASHEVILLE MALL added a second level to Ivey's. This was completed in November 1979. Bon Marche-East became the first major ASHEVILLE MALL store to be rebranded. It morphed into a Greenville-based Meyers-Arnold in June 1980. Uptons, of Norcross, Georgia, eventually acquired the Meyers-Arnold chain, with stores being rebranded as Uptons on November 1, 1987.

Shopping hubs in the ASHEVILLE MALL trade area included TUNNEL HILL SHOPPING CENTER (1965) {.7 mile northeast, in Asheville}. This community-sized center added an enclosed wing in 1966 and became TUNNEL HILL SHOPPING CENTER & MALL. As part of a face lift renovation, it was renamed INNSBRUCK MALL on December 8, 1977.

News of a prospective BILTMORE SQUARE {5.5 miles southwest, in Asheville} prompted Coleman & Company to embark on a major expansion of ASHEVILLE MALL. Twenty-six stores would be added in a single-level Gallery South wing. This would be anchored by a 2-level (130,500 square foot) J.C. Penney and include a multilevel parking garage.

An interior face lift of the existing mall had been done in 1987, which added new skylights and store fronts. Construction of the Gallery South project got underway in January 1988. Soon after, Belk started a floor-to-ceiling renovation of their ASHEVILLE MALL store. It was rededicated on August 2, 1989.

On November 1, 1989, the Gallery South addition was officially dedicated. New inline stores included Limited-Express, Victoria's Secret, Sbarro Italian Eatery, Benetton, American Eagle Outfitters and Bombay Company. ASHEVILLE MALL now encompassed approximately 945,000 leasable square feet. Eighty-two stores, out of an eventual eighty-nine, were in operation.

On June 4, 1990, the mall's Ivey's store was rebranded by Dillard's. Woolworth's was shuttered in January 1993, with Uptons going dark in December of the same year. Three adjacent inline stores were relocated within the mall.

The Uptons-Woolworth's area was gutted and rebuilt as an 11-tenant wing, anchored by a 2-level (92,500 square foot) Montgomery Ward. Wards opened its doors on September 30, 1994. New inline stores in the Wards Wing included Eddie Bauer, Suncoast Motion Picture Company and Reed's Jewelers. Around this time, Sears was given a major renovation. The building's second level, which had been used as office and warehouse space, was converted to a second sales floor.

ASHEVILLE MALL was acquired by Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties in January 1998. A major renovation was announced in September 1999. This project entailed the construction of a Southeast Wing, with an eight-bay Food Court, twenty inline stores and rooftop parking deck.

The addition would connect the existing Gallery South wing with the south entrance of Belk. Construction commenced in January of the year 2000. As the new section was built, the existing complex was refurbished with new skylights, common area carpeting, lighting, signage and public restrooms. Belk also enlarged their store with a full second floor. The building now covered 156,000 square feet.

A remodeled ASHEVILLE MALL was re-dedicated on November 19, 2000. New Southeast Wing stores included Aeropostale, Cache, The Children's Place, Finish Line, Helzberg Diamonds, Kay Jewelers, Regis Hairstylists and Yankee Candle Company. The shopping complex now housed approximately 1,053,000 leasable square feet and contained 109 stores and services under its roof.

A Dillard's "double-header" was established at ASHEVILLE MALL in the early 2000s. The shuttering of Montgomery Ward, in March 2001, provided space for a second Dillard's location. The vacant Wards was refurbished and re-opened, as Dillard's North, on September 6, 2002. This store carried men's, children's & home merchandise.

The mall's original Dillard's was in the middle of an expansion and renovation. Its upper level became a women's department on November 1, 2002. On September 28, 2003, the entire building (now encompassing 114,800 square feet) re-opened as Dillard's South. It sold women's apparel and accessories.

In March 2009, a newly-built (40,000 square foot) Barnes & Noble was completed. It was installed in existing mall space, on the east-facing facade, displacing three tenants and adding 17,300 square feet to the gross leasable area of the complex. This first Streetscape store was followed Ulta Beauty in October 2011.

Sears' shuttering, in July 2018, presented the mall with an opportunity to add new residential, entertainment and retail facilities to its north end. As of late 2020, the 45 million dollar Sears site redevelopment was on hold, while a zoning change could be secured and detailed plans drawn and approved.

Sources:

The Times News (Hendersonville, North Carolina)
The Asheville Citizen-Times
http://www.toto.lib.unca.edu
Buncombe County, North Carolina Property Information System
http://www.asheville-mall.com
www.cinematreasures.org
"Asheville Mall" article on Wikipedia
http://www.colemandevelopment.com
www.cblproperties.com (CBL & Associates Properties)