I found the article on Knoxville Center to be interesting particularly since I grew up in the area from 1976 to 1988. ["Distressed Asset," Citybeat by Mike Gibson, June 6, 2013] This was right around the time when the Interstate 640 extension was being built and then a few years later, East Towne Mall.
My fondest memories were playing in a packed arcade and going to the movies. I then moved on to other things in life for about the next 20 years.
But in the past few years, I have been through the area many times and it has caused me to reminisce about those times. Of course, the mall has this empty feel to it and the arcade isn't much of an arcade anymore. I had the opportunity to touch base with people who attended the old Alice Bell Elementary and Holston High School. Opinions range from those who are older than me that they preferred the old farmland and fields to run around in to those who enjoyed hanging out at the mall on Saturdays, watching movies, going to the arcade and shopping. I don't know exactly what should be done. The mall's smaller scale is simply a result of the population shift that has occurred over the past 30 years and a change in shopping preferences. Maybe a mixture of mom and pop stores and an open market would work.
I do think the perception of the area being a high-crime neighborhood is a misconception. I don't know statistically how crime in the area breaks down. But geographically, people seem to refer to anything east of Broadway and downtown as being East Knoxville. So the perception over the past few decades has been that it is crime-ridden.