Get me that clearance coat, stat!

You gotta love it when someone who reads your posts gets excited about discovering a reincarnated mall. Well, maybe not you, but I love it. A friend’s ordinary doctor visit turned into a transcendental experience as she realized that the doctor’s office was located in an old Nashville mall. Had she not read my highly informative posts, she may not have made this absolutely astounding discovery of ordinary life. Well, I had a chance to visit Nashville and tour the reincarnated 100 Oaks Mall, which manages to incorporate both healthcare and retail. Before we get into the tour of the mall, err, health center, let’s discuss a little bit about its transformation.

i’m not dead yet…i think i’m getting better

One Hundred Oaks Mall has apparently tried over and over again to reinvent itself. It’s amazing how many times 100 Oaks died and was resuscitated, almost as many times as your average competitive apnea diver. There are websites out there that go into far greater detail about the mall’s changes, but I’ll just give you the half-time highlights:

  • Opened in 1968 with the distinction of being Nashville’s first mall and home to Nashville’s first multi-screen enclosed theater. (hey, two is multi!) It was built about two miles south of downtown.
  • Problems arise with the opening of a new interstate, I-65, that shuttles right on by the mall, but doesn’t provide an exit for it. (Thanks to a totally slime-ball-sounding move by the Nashville Mayor who was an investor in another mall, Rivergate Mall.)
  • New malls open throughout Nashville, and 100 Oaks can’t compete. The mall closed in 1983.
  • In the late 1980s, a new interstate interchange renews interest in the mall. New tenants move in, but further Nashville retail expansion closed the mall again in 1993. Only a Burlington Coat Factory and Firestone tire store remained.
  • On the verge of tearing it down, the mall is ‘saved’ by an enclosed outlet mall company that purchases it. The mall reopened in 1996 complete with an animatronics cowboy who sings for food court attendees.
  • The second floor of the mall fades by 2000, but the first floor, which contains big box retailers, continues to thrive.
  • In 2006, there’s talk of turning the second floor into office space. Vanderbilt University Medical Center turns it into an area for its medical clinics and administrative offices.

still alive and kickin’

So, there you have it. Forty-two years in seven bullets—not bad. So, in 2010, we arrived at 100 Oaks Mall parking lot that was like a mall parking lot of yesteryear: jam-packed. We bypassed all the big-box stores and tromped right up into the second floor. It was really nice for a mall, err, medical clinic. To better understand why, think about all the stodgy doctor office waiting rooms you’ve hung around in. Awful fluorescent lighting, 1980s office furniture, and you’re lucky to find a magazine that doesn’t pre-date the furniture. (and just think about all the sick folks who’ve handled that magazine, ewwww.)

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In Vanderbilt’s center, patients could wait in what used to the main walkway of the mall, complete with high ceilings, skylights, vibrant paint, free Wi-Fi and oodles of shopping right downstairs. (with a pager you can take with you to let you know when the doctor is ready) The doctor offices are tucked back into the former store areas. (It reminded me of  Shepherd Mall in Oklahoma City, just more stylish) Sign me up for a doctor’s visit—and get me that discounted coat, stat!

After gawking at the reincarnated mall, and further confusing confused patients by snapping pictures of the spectacle, we went to explore the bustling retail center below. We walked the perimeter as people poured in and out of the stores.

The only store we went into was the Burlington Coat Factory because the building looked like it had been added on after the mall closed down. We—well, I—had to get confirmation that the building was a part of the old mall and there was only one way to find out. We worked our way through mountains of hideously ugly coats and purple-fur-encased-high-heeled-peep-toe boots to the end of the store that at least abutted the mall. After making our way through the blindingly pink and blue baby department, we saw the tell-tale garage door opener on top of a display rack. Pulling back the displayed clothes, we saw the huge door that once opened to the mall. Further confusing already-flustered mom-to-be shoppers, we started pointing and snapping photos of the long-abandoned mall door. Mission-accomplished.

One Hundred Oaks looks like its third life is going quite well, and the 12-year lease with Vanderbilt should ensure that this life lasts a little bit longer. It always amazes me how the semi-permanence of buildings forces people to get creative with their uses. My big question is: what next for 100 Oaks Mall?

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One comment

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