Community joins effort to revive city mall
This article is part of a companion series to "Sprawl America," a look at suburban growth airing nightly this week on CNN at 8 p.m. EST.
November 27, 1998
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (CNN) -- There's one like it in most American cities -- a once popular shopping mall now half-empty and struggling, unable to compete with the shiny new stores in the next ring of suburbia.
Eastgate Mall in Chattanooga fits the pattern. But the mall's new owners hope to break out of the slump with help from the surrounding community.
"There was a lot of affection for an area in this community which was a thriving area years ago and had fallen on some tough times," said Gerry Chauvin of Eastgate Mall. "So everybody wanted to see it come back to life."
In addition to new stores, the plans call for offices where up to 6,000 people could work, a day care center, a health club, a skating rink and a hiking trail connecting the mall to a nearby wetland.
The blank outer facade of the mall will be warmed up with bricks, and part of the roof will be removed to create an open-air walkway inside the mall, lined with shops and cafes.
A further boost to the mall's resurrection is the plan of a nearby church to move into the mall parking lot.
"We're an urban church involved in an urban ministry," said John Mingus, pastor of the Pilgrim Congregational Church. "That setting puts us right in the middle of the parking lot, yes, but also of the marketplace. What a wonderful place to engage in urban ministry, from right where the action is. "
The church traces its roots to a Cherokee Indian mission, which once existed where the mall now stands.
"So it's past and future, tied together," Mingus said.
Chattanooga is a city built on comebacks -- from cleaning up its air, which was once called the worst in the nation, to bringing life back to its formerly depressed downtown area. Eastgate Mall is the latest test of its renaissance spirit.
Correspondent Natalie Pawelski contributed to this report.
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