published Monday, November 7th, 2011

A makeover for Hamilton Place

Many residents of Chattanooga and the surrounding area are too young to remember the time before Hamilton Place mall became a prominent part of the physical and retail landscape of the region. It has been nearly a quarter of a century since CBL & Associates Properties opened the retail powerhouse that proved to be a major catalyst for change in the ensuing years.

The mall impact has been considerable. It helped move the retail hub of the community eastward, spurring significant retail, commercial and residential growth in what was once a lightly populated part of the community. In the process, it helped make shopping in Chattanooga a habit for tens of thousands of families across the region.

Such growth and change has not come without some pain. City and country governments continue to struggle to manage growth and sprawl in areas adjacent to the mall. They, along with the state, sometimes have had trouble maintaining and providing infrastructure to service an area that continues to attract industrial, retail, commercial and residential development. Through it all, the mall has prospered, attracting a wide variety of retailers and restaurants that clearly appeal to area residents. A steady influx of shoppers and diners attests to that.

Those who visit the mall this holiday season will find it changed significantly from a year ago. It has undergone a major makeover, the second since the mall opened in 1987. The just completed 11-month project involved upgrading, repairing and improving every interior surface in the mall. There's another unseen investment, too. Energy saving enhancements, mall officials say, will save enough energy to power 100 homes annually.

Over the years, the mall has become an integral part of the community. It and nearby stores off Interstate 75 and Shallowford Road employ about 4,500 people. Many more individuals work in the mall-inspired developments nearby. The mall and surrounding stores are a financial mainstay of the community as well. They generate, CBL officials, report about $40 million in sales tax revenue every year.

Hamilton Place, in a very real sense, has become a town center for the community and region. The recent makeover, prompted by continued growth in sales and by more than 16 million visitors a year to the mall and the surrounding area, suggests it will remain so for years to come.

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