EASTGATE CENTER
Brainerd Road East / US 11 and 64 and Eastgate Loop
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga-based Independent Enterprises built their first shopping center on a 65 acre parcel, located 5 miles southeast of the Scenic City's downtown area. The site, which had contained the Skyway Drive-In Theatre between 1941 and 1959, was adjacent to the Interstate 24 expressway. This highway had opened to traffic in 1959.

EASTGATE CENTER was designed by Atlanta's Toombs, Amisano & Wells firm. Ground was broken September 29, 1961. The first operational phase, dedicated August 13, 1962, included a 2-level (60,000 square foot), Chattanooga-based Miller Brothers department store, Morrison's Cafeteria and Winn-Dixie supermarket. A G.C. Murphy 5 & 10 held its grand opening September 20th, 1962.

In 1964-1965, the existing Miller Brothers was expanded into a 100,000 square foot store as part of a second construction phase. A 2-level (180,400 square foot) J.C. Penney was added, along with a 1-level (36,800 square foot) Loveman's of Tennessee and single-screen Wilby-Kincey Eastgate Theatre. With this expansion, the open-air EASTGATE CENTER encompassed approximately 550,000 leasable square feet.

Independent Enterprises merged with New York City's Arlen Realty & Development Corporation in 1970. Their first fully-enclosed complex, Mississippi's TUPELO MALL opened in the same year. Their second roofed retail center was completed 2 years later. NORTHGATE MALL {7.1 miles northwest of EASTGATE, in Chattanooga} held its official grand opening in March 1972.

Meanwhile, in December 1971, a fire had swept through EASTGATE CENTER, leaving the facility severely damaged. It was decided to renovate it as a fully-enclosed structure. The renovation was completed in late 1972. The shopping center would be known, henceforth, as EASTGATE MALL.

In the next year, the Miller Brothers store was rebranded as a Knoxville-based Miller's. The cinema became a twin-screen venue in the mid-1970s and eventually incorporated three auditoria. It was shuttered in 1993.

HAMILTON PLACE {4 miles northeast, in Chattanooga} was built  by CBL & Associates Properties, a descendant of Independent Enterprises / Arlen Realty & Development. This superregional center opened in August 1987. 

The older and substantially smaller EASTGATE could not compete and quickly declined into a dead mall. This process was exacerbated by an anchor exodus, which transpired in the following manner;

Proffitt's, of Alcoa, Tennessee, bought the EASTGATE Loveman's in May 1988. The store was rebranded as a Proffitt's, but closed in 1990. The Miller's chain was acquired by Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Hess's in June 1987. The EASTGATE Miller's was rebranded as a Hess's, but closed in late 1992.  J.C. Penney relocated into a new store at HAMILTON PLACE on February 28, 1992.
   
By the mid-1990s, EASTGATE MALL was in a downward spiral. Its three department stores were gone and the occupancy rate hovered at around 27 percent. A bold plan was put forth in 1997. The virtually vacant "greyfield" shopping hub would be repurposed as a mixed-use town center.

30 million dollars were invested in a renovation. Retail space was reconfigured as office suites and the exteriors of the J.C. Penney and Miller Brothers stores were refaced with brick and mortar "small town Main Street" facades. Moreover, the vacant cinema became a YMCA. A small Food Court was also created.

A more radical plan to cut a street though the center of the mall was not carried out. The new and improved EASTGATE TOWN CENTER was dedicated in 1998. The old Loveman's store had become an A T & T (Convergys) Call Center, the old Penney's was now offices for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Tennessee. The Miller Brothers building housed a Knoxille-based Goody's Family Clothing.

The reconfigured complex encompassed approximately 780,000  leasable square feet. It featured a senior citizen recreation center and various retail stores. These included Waldenbooks, GNC, Foot Locker, Afterthoughts and Metabolife.

As a result of the renovation and repositioning, the high vacancy rate of the moribund mall had been reversed. The project received accolades and lots of press coverage. However, the impetus to do further changes, and make EASTGATE more of a suburban-type downtown, eventually subsided.

Goody's Family Clothing moved into a new 1-level (35,000 square foot) store in the year 2000. This was added to the northwest corner of the TOWN CENTER. On June 2005, California-based Cal X Properties purchased the complex, which now encompassed 850,000 leasable square feet.

A satellite campus for Chattanooga State Technical Community College opened in July 2008. A new name had also been bestowed; the EASTGATE COMPLEX. However, the "mixed use district" continued to be referred to as EASTGATE TOWN CENTER.  Eventually, the new mall moniker was forgotten.

Large vacancies were created in early 2009, when the offices of Blue Cross & Blue Shield moved from the mall and Goody's Family Clothing was shuttered. The 1st floor of the vacant Goody's was retenanted by a (17,500 square foot) Office Depot and (17,500 square foot) Citi Trends.

In the twenty-tens, EASTGATE TOWN CENTER housed tenants such as Tuesday Morning home decor, Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence, State of Tennessee Career Center, Convergys Call Center and China Moon restaurant.

Sources:

The Chattanooga News-Free Press
www.eastgatecomplex.com
www.chattanooga.com / "Remembering G.C. Murphy Stores" / Harmon Jolley
www.cinematreasures.org
"Living On Earth" website
http://www.transwestern.net
www.robbins-properties.com
"Eastgate" article on Wilipedia
"Loveman's" article on Wikipedia
"Proffitt's" article on Wikipedia
https://www.midtown-center.com