22 May 2013

Bellevue Center, Nashville, TN

A dead mall

17 March 2024

Back when I was in college during the early nineties, a good buddy of mine from the western outskirts of Nashville loved to brag about the big, new rich folks mall that had recently opened near his exurban subdivision. Even on road trips to Huntsville's Madison Square and the Cool Springs Galleria in the Music City's southern suburbs, we all had to endure constant comments about how much better the Bellevue Center was. It was all Bellevue this and Bellevue that. You would have thought there was something Taj-Mahal-ish about the place. He had set some seriously elevated expectations, perhaps unattainably so.

Bellevue Center Mallmanac, ca. 1998. View the full PDF version here.

It was 1998 before I finally did make it out to see the Bellevue Center. I was bewildered at how far it was located outside of town and away from peripheral commercial development. It seemed to me that they built an entire super-regional complex on the mere speculation that supporting growth and residential development would follow. But it never did. Not in proximity to Bellevue, anyway. Unlike the phenomenal growth that came in the wake of Cool Springs' construction in Franklin, the sphere surrounding Bellevue was stagnant. The surrounding streets held sparse traffic and close-in parking spaces were easy to find outside any of the mall entrances, neither being very encouraging signs for a new retail facility. The building's interior was bright and cavernous, but also quite empty. Most of the spaces, however, were still occupied and there didn't appear to be any imminent problems on that first visit. I could have never predicted the sharp decline of the mall that was to take place in just a few years.

-UPDATE-  1- Bellevue’s center court in better days.  2- The opening ceremony of Bellevue Center in 1990.  3- Dillard’s court.  4- The children’s play area. (Source for all)

The Bellevue Center opened in 1990 with anchors Castner Knott and Dillard's along with a couple of empty, grassy pads where two additional anchors could be built. The facility was home to many new and exclusive retailers to the Nashville area such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Williams-Sonoma. One of the pads was slated for the metropolitan area's first Macy's, with its famous star logo even painted on the spot where its mall entrance would open onto the second level. But the store was never built. By the late nineties, although a Sears had been added, the exodus of those exclusive retailers had already begun. Castner Knott became Proffit's then, for a short time, Macy's before closing in 2009, two years after Dillard's had shuttered their space. The mall concourses closed in 2008 and, as of this writing, Sears is the only business still in operation.

-UPDATE- The Bellevue Center lease plan ca. 2001.  View the full PDF version here.

The growth that the developers hoped would bolster the Bellevue Center did eventually come to Nashville, just not in their anticipated locale. The more upscale names gravitated toward The Mall at Green Hills, located much closer to the Music City's center of population, while Cool Springs became the top regional draw. Bellevue, with its poor location and abysmal growth, was pushed out of the crowded marketplace as there was really no need for its continued existence. Since its closing, many ideas have been considered for the hulking facility, though no plan has achieved a consensus. All that can be agreed upon is that the complex in its present state is viable neither in that location nor in today's retail environment. And with the economy still in recovery mode, it's probable that we still won't see any investment made or progress initiated anytime in the near future.

I've always pondered what my buddy's thoughts on the Bellevue Center would be today.


-17 March 2024

The inevitable happened in 2015 when Sears announced their departure.  Though not an original anchor, the venerable department store hung on even longer than the mall itself.  Earlier in the decade, the city had proposed the site as the home for a new branch of their library, but it never came to fruition.  And with Sears now gone, it seemed that the only choice was to bulldoze the merely 25 year old structure completely.

1-  Center Court in latter days. (Source)  2- The Bellevue Center Sears just before its closing. (Source)

Just before demolition, Bellevue Center’s owners announced that the site would be redeveloped and renamed One Bellevue Place, a (you guessed it) mixed-use development including a hotel, residences, office space and a retail sector.  Also included, predating the same fate for Seattle’s Northgate Mall, was a new practice facility for Nashville’s NHL team, the Predators.  (Go Preds!)

The Bellevue Center lease plan ca. 2003.  View the full PDF version here.

One Bellevue Place opened in 2017 hosting names such as AMC Theaters, Burlington and HomeGoods, among others.  It seems as though it was a good thing that Bellevue Center was such a colossally poorly planned failure that it died before the recent epidemic of dead malls that they are already fully redeveloped while market peers Hickory Hollow Mall and Rivergate Mall sit empty and abandoned.

Bellevue Center’s front facing exterior from Dillard’s on the left to Macy’s on the right. (Source)

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