When Adrienne Royer was growing up in Chattanooga in the '90s, she said that Northgate Mall was the ultimate in cool for a high school job. But since then, the perception of the shopping center has shifted for some people, leaving more to be desired.
In October 2011, CBL, which owns and manages Hamilton Place Mall, bought Northgate in an online auction for $11.5 million, according to Nooga.com archives. Now, CBL is in the process of a multimillion dollar renovation project of Northgate, and new stores are being added to the mall.
CBL spokeswoman Katie Reinsmidt said that a Ross Dress for Less and Michael's Arts & Crafts are in the works next to T.J. Maxx. Those stores should be open later this year.
The Hixson Old Navy is also moving inside the mall. That should open in January of 2014, Reinsmidt said.
"It's definitely a great addition to the center," she said. "Old Navy is a very well-known and well-liked national brand, and we're excited to have them."
Stitches Embroidery, a store that specializes in custom embroidery, also recently opened in Northgate, and Auntie Ann's Pretzels will soon be located in the mall's food court.
Interior and exterior renovations are also underway.
Crews are also going to update the main entrance and repave some of the parking lot, according to Nooga.com archives.
Leaders said new soft seating will be added inside, as well as new flooring, ceiling and lighting upgrades, also according to archives.
Work on the interior is done mostly after mall hours and should be complete by the end of the year, Reinsmidt said.
Leaders hope to make additional announcements about new stores at the mall in coming months, she also said.
And officials have heard many ideas from members of the public, Reinsmidt said.
"I would love to see an ULTA, Costco/Sam's and some kind of fabric store," Royer said via Twitter about ideas for Northgate. She named Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores as a possibility.
Royer grew up in Hixson and worked at the Hallmark in Northgate after school during her senior year and on breaks from school at the University of Tennessee from 1999 to 2003, she said via email.
Although she lives in Washington, D.C., now, she still goes to Belk when she's in town. The closest Belk to D.C. is about 90 minutes away, she said.
During the '90s, the mall was the center of Hixson, she said.
"It was the 'cool' place to work if you were a teenager," she said. "I went to school at Berean Academy, and a number of students worked there since it was so close. At any given time, I could walk into the Chick-fil-A in the mall and know almost everyone working there."
But over time, as stores spread out more in Hixson, Northgate became less of a focus, she said.
"When Target and the movie theater moved, they left huge, empty spaces," she said. "While they both upgraded their facilities, the old locations made the mall appear desolate. The addition of the Super Walmart on 153 meant that it was no longer convenient to run to the mall and Walmart in one shopping trip."
Downtown's popularity has increased, so the Hixson area has more competition now, and the businesses that once drew shoppers to the Northgate area have moved, she said.
Belk is her main draw to the mall now.
But Reinsmidt said leaders are working to make the mall something that community members are proud of.
"These are good first steps to getting it back to [that] position," she said.