06 May 2013

The Mall at Green Hills, Nashville, TN

An extant asset

If I were ever to live anywhere else in the south besides Huntsville, that place would be Nashville. Once known almost exclusively for its country music, the city has evolved into one of the South's most progressive cities. It now has both an NFL and NHL team, suburban commuter rail and a growing population approaching 2 million. And the most affluent of that population's retail needs are met by the Mall at Green Hills.

The Mall at Green Hills Mallmanac ca. 1998. View the full PDF version here.

Bucking the usual trend, Green Hills is not floating in a sea of asphalt just off of one of the city's many criss-crossing interstates. Neither is it found in any of the endless sprawling suburbs. It is located in a rather dense urban area just to the southwest of downtown. The roads leading up to the Mall at Green Hills are relatively narrow and rather heavely congested, but the scenery involving some of Nashville's finest old mansions to its most exclusive retail offerings is definitely worth the trouble.

The Mall at Green Hills after the Castner Knott/Hecht's relocation.

Green Hills isn't very impressive from the outside at first sight, but looks can definitely be deceiving in this case. Inside the rather unassuming red brick walls I was impressed to find genuinely classy and fine decor. When I first visited in 1998, the mall had yet to become the hub of Nashville's most upscale shopping, but I could already tell that the more affluent demographic was what the mall was turning their focus toward. The changes that came later were, in my eyes at least, imminent.

L- The Dillard's anchor, originally Cain-Sloan, facing the front side of the mall. R- The Mall at Green Hills' former main entrance facing Martin-Abbott Road. No longer visible, this outlet now serves as the entranceway to Nordstrom's recent addition.

The Mall at Green Hills opened in 1955 as your average post World War II strip center. In the latter part of the following decade, Nashville-based Castner Knott was opened as the growing center's first major anchor while, at the same time, its first enclosed area was built. A few years later, the previously mentioned Cain-Sloan added a free-standing location. In the early nineties, just after Dillard's took over the Nashville-based chain, Cain-Sloan was finally connected to the rest of the mall. A diverse variety of fashion stores and restaurants were added over the years in addition to a bit more anchor shuffling. Castner Knott was purchased by Hecht's with the new to Nashville store soon building a brand new space just to the south of the existing one. Subsequently, the old Castner Knott/Hecht's space was developed into additional retail square footage.

Perhaps the catalyst truly propelling the Mall of Green Hills to its full upmarket potential was the announcement of a new competitor, the Nashville Center (Right.) Mall developer Rouse was planning to build the fully enclosed facility in the nearby Brentwood area and had already secured Seattle-based Nordstrom as an anchor. This would be the retailer's first Tennessee location, and the announcement was met with much excitement and anticipation. Outside of the Pacific Northwest, it sometimes seems that landing a Nordstrom is the retail equivalent of gaining a Major League franchise. Due in no small part to the tanking economy and changes in shopping preferences and habits, the Nashville Center never developed past the planning stages. Nordstrom, having realized the spending potential of the Nashille trade area, decided to proceed with building a location at the area's only other logical choice- The Mall at Green Hills. This truly cemented the old center's status as the Phipps Plaza of Tennessee.

The Mall at Green Hills with its footprint and anchor layout as of this writing.

Whenever making the two hour trek from Huntsville to Nashville for whatever reason, a stop at The Mall at Green Hills was always included. Their Cheesecake Factory became a post Pride tradition. It is a unique center with an exclusive selection, and, though one of Nashville's oldest shopping centers, always seems to stay just ahead of the rest of the competition.

Mall at Green Hills' official website

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