Experts, Metro planners discuss transforming dead malls - WSMV News 4

Experts, Metro planners discuss transforming dead malls

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As Nashville continues to prosper and grow, there remains a visible and nagging question over what to do with its two dead shopping malls.

Bellevue Mall and Hickory Hollow Mall have been such a source of disappointment that the city has brought in perhaps the country's leading expert on dealing with dead malls with the goal of transforming them into something new and different.

Architecture professor Ellen Dunham Jones has met with community planning group Nashville Next to talk about refitting Middle Tennessee suburbia. Jones said the two biggest ingredients are political will and a market. If you have those two things, she said, you can do anything.

"You have to make a place that people want to be," Jones said. "There's still lots of choices for the people who really want that single-family home in the suburbs, but we are seeing more people who want more of an urban lifestyle in a suburban location."

For example, Lakewood, CO, never had a downtown, so it tore down its dead mall and created a downtown district with businesses, offices and even a park. It has been a smash success story.

Then, there is the City Center in Columbus, OH, which was torn down to make a park with a lake and a concert lawn. What was once a dead mall is now a hot property.

"And now as the economy is recovering, they are ringing the park with urban housing, so green space - open space - often helps property values," Jones said.

There is also a so-called "Meds and Eds" formula in which a college or medical center takes over a big, open mall space. Once that activity comes back to the area, suddenly restaurants and retail have customers again.

"It takes time and vision, and I think we have the vision in place," said Metro planner Tifinie Capehart.

Jones is speaking Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Scarritt Bennett Center about restoring not just malls, but other dormant retail in the suburbs as well.

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