KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – Tuesday night, city leaders in Kingsport gave the Economic Development Board the green light to start negotiating a tax break that would allow the owners of the Fort Henry Mall at Kingsport Town Center to start a major renovation project.
Once the negotiated tax break is approved , then we can start to see some of the renovations early next year and even possibly some new anchor stores.
The mayor of Kingsport and shoppers we spoke with on Tuesday say the mall is in desperate need of a renovation in order to attract new retailers.
Once a prime shopping location in the Tri-Cities, the Fort Henry Mall at Kingsport Town Center is mostly a ghost town. There are loyalists like Mitzi Gunter, who’s been coming to the mall for decades.
“When I was a teenager, we used to come and hang out,” Mitizi Gunter said.
That was in the mall’s heyday, now most stores have closed and the bustling crowds have found other places to shop.
“Times change and people aren’t working like they were. And business isn’t as good as it used to be,” Gunter said.
All of that could soon change, if the negotiations are a success and the BMA (Board of Mayor and Alderman) approves.
The financial incentive package would allow mall owners to pay reduced property taxes over a 20 year period. This would free up money for the company to make much needed renovations to the mall.
Frequent mall shopper, Tom Thurman, supports the idea.
“It would be good for the economy and give this place a face lift,” Thurman said.
The Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport has a number of empty retail spaces. Kingsport’s mayor says if the vote is approved, city leaders are hopeful that the renovations will attract more businesses to the mall.
“The investments that they are going to make are going to be more cosmetic for the most part. They are also going to be bringing in some new anchors, tenants as well,” Mayor John Clark said.
The mayor says the mall owners are expecting to put about $6 million into the first phase of the renovation project giving the mall a more community feel throughout.
He says there is also discussion on replacing the operators of the movie theater still operating at the mall.
“We need more business and more jobs,” Mitzi Gunter said.
Mitizi Gunter is hoping the renovations prompts other retailers to invest in the mall she wants to see thrive once again.
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