15 May 2013

100 Oaks Mall, Nashville, TN

A relic of retail

Nashville's 100 Oaks Mall, located just outside of the city's 440 Beltway, is your archetypal first generation mall. I first noticed the dated design of the building on a trip to Nashville, perhaps to visit Opryland, during the early nineties. It occupied a pretty prominent spot on a slight hillside just off of Interstate 65. I remember the arched main entrance portico and the abundance of white vertical lines running the length of the edifice. I was also impressed by the mid-rise office tower integrated into the facility, a signature feature for many malls of that age. It looked like the exterior hadn't been "improved upon" since its opening, and that was quite all right with me.

100 Oaks Mall Mallmanac ca. 1998. View the full PDF version here.

While most enclosed shopping centers of 100 Oaks' generation were basic single level dumbells with double anchors, this layout was quite the departure from that standard. It was a two tiered facility surrounded by a sloped parking area. The bottom level was without an inner concourse so nearly all of the stores on the lower portion were only accessible directly from the outside. There were three entrances on the front face of the mall, where the parking lot was graded to the first floor, one in the middle and another on each end abutting the anchors. These entrances led straight to a small enclosure with an escalator, an elevator or any other means to access the upstairs, and it was up top where an enclosed corridor ran the length of the building.

An old timey postcard of 100 Oaks Mall just after its opening. (Source)

The backside was landscaped up to the second tier, with the southern anchor occupying only the upper level of its space and, therefore, was only accessible from the flanking parking lot. Immediately under this anchor was space for more stores and those, like the rest of the downstairs occupants, only had exterior entrances. The north anchor originally occupied both levels of its building.

100 Oaks Mall opened in 1968 as Nashville's first modern enclosed retail facility. At 850,000 square feet, it was quite a bit larger than most of its first generation peers. The southern anchor was a Woolco, with the northern anchor a Penny's. Abutting Woolco and the upper mall corridor was the multi-level Nashville based institution Harvey's. The mall seemed to do well for a while, but began a precipitous decline during the latter part of the seventies and into the early eighties, leading to its first closure in 1983. Yes, just its first.

Birds eye view of 100 Oaks still sporting its cheap looking, mid 90s industrial theme. (Source)

Normally a full shuttering would be the demise of any mall, but this wasn't just any mall. 100 Oaks reopened in the late eighties, but soon began another steep decline. In the mid-nineties, it was closed for the second time as Tennessee-based developer Belz embarked on a full repositioning of the conventional mall to an outlet center. In 1995, the mall held its third grand opening with a, well, unique new look. Belz had outfitted the entire complex in some tacky industrial theme with renderings of oversized clockwork and black and yellow safety tape used not sparingly throughout the once classic example of modern retail design. Burlington Coat Factory, an Off Fifth Saks, a JCPenney Outlet (their second time in the mall, albeit in a completely different space) and a huge 27 screen Regal Cinema built on a southern outlot all contributed to this third adaptation's success.

L- 100 Oaks Mall at its 1967 opening. R- 100 Oaks Mall at its 1995 opening.

But that success wasn't very long lived and by the mid 2000s, stores were departing once again. The bottom level, with it's exterior entrances and large spaces, still found success as a power center, but the upper level concourse was once again on the brink of flat-lining. It seemed that the mall was going to fold for the third, and, owing to the state of the economy, most likely its final time. Then came the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and, much like the many patients they save on a daily basis on their westside campus, the world renowned medical school also prevented the mall from passing away.

The layout of the clinics at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

Vanderbilt also rechristened the decades old complex with a slight name change, the first in the series of four reincarnations, to Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. The entire facility was re-purposed as a series of clinics and laboratories serving the community. These new additions are interspersed with stores and restaurants resulting in the mall's being nearly one hundred percent leased. Hopefully maintaining an anchor tenant like Vanderbilt, one not subject to the normal fluctuations of the retail industry, will make this fourth version of 100 Oaks Mall its most resilient.

Vanderbilt Health 100 Oaks official website


  1. Hello,

    The Curator, from the Mall Hall of Fame, here. I just wanted to thank you for posting all of the great mall info.

  2. do you have the original copies of the brochures?