Published Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Bellevue mall will get Wal-Mart next door


    The struggling Bellevue Center announced yesterday its new plan for revitalization, which includes a 210,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter.

    Hoping to draw customers back to the mall, the owners plan to sell about 12 acres next to the mall for a Wal-Mart to open in late 2006. In addition, the mall plans to spend millions on a renovation timed to coincide with Wal-Mart's arrival.


Carl Clark's Commentary:

Posted March 23, 2005 (user submitted)

Bellevue Center opened in the summer of 1990, right before my senior year of college. This was an opulent, upscale mall, with several firsts for the Nashville area that I remember very clearly--Williams-Sonoma, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Nine West Shoes, and Ann Taylor were the stores that were touted. In fact, I remember the radio ads plugging Bellevue that time, Nashvillians had to take a road trip to reach upscale shopping malls, and the ads would mention several of these firsts, and then say, "you used to have to drive to Atlanta to shop at these all these stores are coming to Bellevue Center." And in the first few years or so, the shoppers did as well. I remember going there during the first Christmas season and being unable to find a parking space. After I moved away for grad school, my wife and I would frequently shop there on trips back during the early '90s, and it was quite busy. The mall had opened with two anchors and had slots for two more, and it was rumored that Macy's and Parisian were in line to take the remaining real estate (in fact, a Macy's facade had been painted in on the wall inside the mall where the entrance to the store would have been).

Fast-forward to December 2000. My wife and I have moved back to Nashville and settled in Bellevue, about ten minutes from the mall. We decide to hit the mall after Christmas for bargains, particularly the Williams-Sonoma store, since we like to cook. Traffic appears a little soft for post-Christmas, and the vacancy rate seems a little higher than we remember. We know something is amiss when the clerk at Williams-Sonoma mentions that the store will be closing the following day--permanently. (Probably had a ten-year lease, come to think of it.) W-S is opening a new location at Cool Springs Galleria, a sprawling development that opened in neighboring Williamson County in 1992 and has been gobbling up land, and the competition, ever since. This is presumably why there's no need for a store at Bellevue Center any longer.

Jump ahead to the present...several "redevelopment plans" have been mentioned by the mall's owners, but never formally announced. Target has been rumored to be interested in coming into the mall, but this has quietly faded away over the past couple of years. "All those stores" that had been promoted as the mall's selling point fifteen years ago have gone elsewhere in the Nashville market, although I think Nine West was inexplicably hanging on the last time I walked through. The Pass Pets location has long since ceased to be a pet store and is now used as an early-voting polling place...interesting since the kitten I got there in 1990 is now a very old cat and has outlived the store. The three anchor stores are still there, although Sears has closed one of its outside entrances, probably to reduce shoplifting, and Hecht's is sparsely stocked relative to its other Nashville locations. Ironically, with Federated's pending purchase of the May Co. (owner of Hecht's), Bellevue Center may finally get a Macy's--if Federated decides to convert this Hecht's location instead of simply closing it.

It's hard to call Bellevue Center a "dead mall" just yet, since it still has three anchors, is clean and well-maintained, and is in a growing residential area. However, it's hard to see it coming back to full life in its present form anytime soon. The upscale stores have all gone to Cool Springs (near where many upscale consumers live) or the Mall at Green Hills (a perpetually upgrading mall about five miles away, on the way home from work for upscale consumers), and they have little incentive to come back. Bellevue Center has tried pitching itself as a family-oriented, mid-scale mall, but young families bring the kids to play in the mall's center court kids' area, shop at Old Navy, and that's about it. The mall is about to reach that tipping point where the place is so empty and quiet that people will feel nervous about shopping there, and then it will be only a matter of time before it's either completely redone (unlikely) or knocked down in favor of something else (more likely).

Zak Craft's Commentary:

Posted March 15, 2005 (user submitted February 10, 2005)

I remember fondly going to Bellevue Mall as a child, it was full with numerous book stores, cd stores, and two anchors(Castner Knotts now Hechts, and Dillards). The mall was set up like most mid to late 80s malls, with the sunken in rest benches, and the pastels that remind everybody of the 80s.

The mall thrived and included such smaller stores as KB Toy Store, Sam Goody's, Limited Too, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Gap. Sears opened up in a large expansion project about 4 or 5 years ago. This mall was a great mall for it's size, and location and I enjoyed it very much. I moved to Memphis 2 years ago and when I left the mall was doing well.

When I returned at Christmas I received a gift certificate for the mall. When I arrived I saw that the mall I grew up in, was starting to die. Very few renovations had occured and almost the entire second floor was empty storefronts. Sam Goody's, Abecrombie and Fitch, and the bookstores were now closed. Deb's and Old Navy remained along with the three anchor stores. The 2nd floor was almost at full occupancy but it is now almost a waste of time to go to the second floor of the mall. You can walk around the entire floor and there is nothing there at all. Recently a few interesting stores have opened that excite me such as a New Age/Metaphysical store, and a new candle store but besides that nothing really exists on this floor.

I don't exactly think this mall is dying but I do think many residents of Bellevue are travelling the extra few miles to the gigantic Opry Mills mall and that may be killing the smaller malls in Nashville.

I do believe that in the next 10 years the only malls left in Nashville will be Opry Mills, Hickory Hollow Mall and Green Hills Mall. These giants will most likely kill off the 3 smaller malls that w/ the exception of Bellevue Mall are in shady parts of town.

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