By Mike Steely

Hillwood Enterprises LP has approached Knoxville-Knox County Planning with a request for a zoning change for the East Towne, aka Knoxville Center, Mall. The company, represented locally by Benjamin C. Mullins, is asking to switch from I-G, General Industrial, to LI, Light Industrial.

The company hopes to acquire the entire mall complex, including the J.C. Penney, Sears, Dillard’s and Belk buildings, with plans to create an “ecommerce and fulfillment center” according to Stephanie Welch, Knoxville’s Chief of Economic and Community Development.

“We’re only in preliminary conversations and ready to reach out to the neighborhood and stakeholders,” she told The Focus Tuesday afternoon. The zoning change is on the planning agenda for the October 8 meeting in three different requests.

The 78-acre vacant mall has been mostly empty for several years and the addition of industry, such as ecommerce, there would be welcomed with the additional employment a bonus. Ecommerce fulfillment centers take orders over the internet from individuals or companies, pull the items ordered, handle the billing, package the products and then ship items by various means including the post office, commercial shipping companies, or even their own fleet of vehicles.

Amazon may be the best-known ecommerce company and there are many more such companies. It is not known at this point what company might be housed there.