Editorial: Can new owners transform a struggling Pigeon Forge mall?

Oct. 21, 2013 @ 11:46 PM

With the increase in retail in Sevierville — see Tanger Five Oaks — the once-roaring retail outlet businesses down the road in Pigeon Forge have suffered.

Just two years ago, the bank foreclosed on the Belz Factory Outlet Mall off Teaster Lane, a troubling sign for what was once the city's number-one tourist attraction — shopping.

Last week, however, a new group of investors purchased the struggling 450,000-square foot outlet mall, now called the Pigeon River Crossings.

Word from city officials about the site sounds promising.

Past work with the investors, and knowledge of their other projects, seems to indicate they know what they're doing, and hopes are high for a successful transformation of the property to something that may drive more tourists to visit Pigeon Forge and spend their hard-earned dollars.

With new area facilities like LeConte Center and the Island, as well as growing development all around, it may be a good time for smart, forward-thinking investors to transform the mall into a profiting business. Traffic down Teaster Lane should only be increasing in the coming years.

While the Internet and online shopping venues such as eBay, Amazon.com and retailer-specific sites have forever changed the culture of retail, there's still something to the retail model.

All it takes is a glance at Tanger on the weekends and during the holiday season to know people still like to search for bargains in person and actaully touch their purchase prior to swiping a credit card.

Perhaps the new developer will bring something different to Pigeon Forge. Maybe new, different stores uncommon to the area. Maybe true destination-type shopping — items and businesses you can't find at every other outlet strip in the county. 

They may even remodel the mall to make it more visually appealing.

The most welcome sight, for both the new investors and the city, would be a full parking lot.