Austin Wells's Commentary

Posted December 3, 2005 (user submitted October 19, 2005)

The Church Street Center opened around 1990 and was intended to revive retail along Nashville's historic shopping street. It was a beautiful facility with a three-level entry off Church Street and a wall of glass facing the Tennessee state capitol building. It was attached to the Caster-Knott department store and the Hyatt Regency hotel by a sky bridge. Another, larger sky bridge connected the center to the Renaissance (Stouffer) hotel and the Nashville Convention Center. The food court often featured a grand piano player for lunch.

The concept should have worked, but the center was built before its time and the tenant mix was wrong. There were very few 24-hour residents living downtown at that time. Plus, they filled the mall with typical chain stores (The Limited, Waldenbooks, etc.) that could be found all over the suburbs. Castner Knott closed (the remaining stores became Proffitts and then Hecht's and now will be rebranded Macy's and Bloomingdales). The mall eventually closed and was demolished roughly a decade later.

Today Nashville's new public library fills this site. Ironically the residents are now pouring into downtown. New apartment/condo towers have been built or are being planned, one of which will have a two-story "urban grocery" at its base. These would all have been within easy walking distance to the center. All that time and energy to create the Centre is now lost forever and most newcomers will never even know it was there at all. It's rare to see such a facility come and go so quickly.

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