Kingsport Town Center closing customer service kiosk

Rick Wagner • Dec 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The upper-level customer service kiosk at the Kingsport Town Center will close Dec. 31 and mean the layoff of four part-time employees, a mall official said Monday.

After the closure gift cards will still be available in the main mall office on the second level, while the Kiddie Kruzzer strollers will be available through a coin-operated system.

Kevin Harmon, general manager of the facility formerly known as the Fort Henry Mall, said plans are to reopen customer service at a new location near Garfield’s on the lower level in 2010 after interior renovations of the mall are completed.

“We’re eventually going to reopen,” Harmon said Monday. “And we’re not closing it before Christmas.”The current customer service area is near the escalator in front of the Belk Home and Kids Store.

Harmon said the four part-time workers are great employees, and he will help them find other jobs. Harmon added that he would like to call them back to work in 2010 if they are still available.

The mall office is on the second level, between Hibbett and the Belk clothing store.

In an unrelated holiday change, Harmon said the not-for-profit group that in the past offered gift wrapping could not muster enough volunteers to operate the gift wrapping center this year, and no other group was able to take on the job.

The mall, owned by California-based Somera Capital Management and managed by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, in the first quarter of 2009 is scheduled to begin a $35 million renovation and expansion. That includes renovation of the mall interior space as well as expansions of J.C. Penney and other areas of the mall, plus proposed development of outparcels in parking areas.

Harmon said the project, slated to be completed in 2011, is still on track.

General Growth, a third-party manager of the mall, last month warned that it might be forced into bankruptcy if it could not pay its debt.

However, Kingsport Deputy City Manager Jeff Fleming said the division of General Growth that owns malls is in trouble, not the division that manages them.

According to an Associated Press article, General Growth officials Sunday said the company received a two-week extension on $900 million in debt that was to have come due last week. The debt is from two Las Vegas malls

General Growth owns, according to the AP.

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