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Staff photo by Mike Pare / The site of the closed Sears auto center next to Northgate Mall will become home to a pair of new Hixson restaurants.

TO APPLY

Aubrey’s: www.aubreysrestaurants.com

Panda Express: pandacareers.com.

 

A couple of new restaurants are slated for outside of Northgate Mall in Hixson as the shopping center's owner redevelops the former Sears auto center.

Panda Express and Aubrey's are set to open eateries at the site of the auto center by the end of this year, according to CBL Properties.

Stephen Lebovitz, CEO of Chattanooga-based CBL, said the company is committed to diversifying the uses at its properties to include more dining and other lifestyle options.

"This is one of many announcements we look forward to sharing in 2018 detailing the transformation of CBL properties through our redevelopment program," he said.

Panda Express, a fast casual Chinese restaurant, will have 2,000 square feet of space including an outdoor patio, said CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating.

Aubrey's, which offers pastas, fresh seafood, hamburgers and "Southern favorites," will take up 7,500 square feet and also have an exterior patio, she said.

"We're very excited to bring the first Aubrey's to Chattanooga," she said, adding that there's already one in Cleveland, Tenn.

The auto center, which closed at the end of January, was purchased by CBL about a year ago, along with the Hamilton Place mall Sears department store.

The deal was part of a $72.5 million purchase and lease-back transaction involving seven Sears facilities at CBL malls in six states. The purchase provided added equity for Sears and gave CBL control of the locations for future use.

CBL also is moving ahead with a second former Sears auto center redevelopment project at Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach, Fla., where it's adding restaurants.

In Hixson, work will start next month at the site of the former auto center located near the mall entrance off Highway 153. Keating said plans are for the restaurants to likely open prior to the Christmas holiday.

Panda Express has a location in Chattanooga off Gunbarrel Road in East Brainerd. The new restaurant is expected to employ between 20 and 25 people, said Hector Coronel, the company's director of restaurant development affairs.

"Panda Express chose the location due to its placement in the heart of the market with strong foot traffic and great co-tenants," he said about the eatery that will have 58 interior seats.

With nearly 2,000 restaurants, Panda Express calls itself the largest family-owned American Chinese food chain in the United States. It was started about 40 years ago when Andrew and Peggy Cherng opened their first restaurant.

Aubrey's, which was launched in Knoxville in 1992, is known for serving fresh and locally sourced meats, fish, fruit, and vegetables, according to CBL.

Owner Randy Burleson also has 10 other Aubrey's locations in East Tennessee, and he has acquired other eateries including Sunspot, Barley's and Stefanos Pizza.

CBL Properties' portfolio is comprised of 119 properties in 27 states.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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