Megan Kibble of Ringgold said Friday that she and her friends shop at Hamilton Place mall at least once every couple of weeks.
"Girls like to shop and have fun together," said the 18-year-old, who was among more than 100 people who turned out for a celebration marking the mall's 30th birthday.
Top executives of mall developer CBL & Associates Properties Inc. joined with public officials to recall what the Hamilton Place area looked like before the mall, how it spurred ballooning growth and what the future may hold.
"The mall is very near and dear to our hearts," said Stephen Lebovitz, chief executive of Chattanooga-based CBL, adding that the growth around Hamilton Place exceeded the company's expectations. "We look forward to more success."
Lebovitz cited potential redevelopment plans of the Sears store that CBL has purchased and the nearby parking lot where he sees restaurants and entertainment uses with possible offices and a hotel.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., termed CBL Chairman Charles Lebovitz and his family "visionaries" as they saw the potential of the mall that opened in 1987.
"I remember when this was barren land," he said, noting he opened his law practice that year. "This is today outstanding."
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger talked about the economic impact of the mall and the stores, hotels, offices, and other businesses which have sprouted up around the center.
He said a portion of the sales taxes generated by the mall area go toward financing public education.
"They created an economic engine here," Coppinger said, adding that construction of the mall kicked off a building boom in the eastern part of the county. "I look forward to what you're going to do in the next 30 years."
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said that when the mall opened, "this changed everything" in the East Brainerd area.
Building the center three decades ago took courage, he said.
"Today it looks like a no-brainer, but then it wasn't assured," he said. "Think of the vision when there weren't people living out here."
Berke called the mall "a gathering place" that builds community.
Andrea Momberg, also of Ringgold, said there's "tons of stuff" to do and shop for at Hamilton Place. While she shops online, she said she's impatient and would rather go to a store than wait a couple of days for a package to arrive.
"I'd much rather come to the store and buy it," Momberg said.
Angie Hamilton of Rock Spring, Ga., recalled she was about 14 years old when the mall first opened and cited the development that has occurred over the years around it.
"My daughter likes to come. I bring her up here twice month. She loves it," Hamilton said.
CBL owns, holds interests in or manages 121 properties, including 78 regional malls and open-air centers in 27 states, including Hamilton Place and Northgate Mall in Chattanooga.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.
By the numbers
› 3 — Number of malls in Chattanooga that CBL & Associates Properties Inc., or its predecessor companies, developed in the city, including Eastgate Mall, Northgate Mall and Hamilton Place
› 20 million — Estimate of the number of people the Hamilton Place area attracts annually
› $2 billion — Projected retail sales generated annually by the mall and the businesses around it in East Brainerd
Activites today marking the mall’s 30 years include ’80s music, hourly contests and gift card giveaways from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dillard’s fashion show at 1 p.m; and entertainer Tiffany performs at 2 p.m. at the mall’s Center Court.