Bellevue Center tenants considering their options

Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 12:47am

Tenants at Bellevue Center are considering their options, as a sale of the mall for redevelopment looks more likely.

Representatives of prospective mall buyer Foursquare Properties Inc. announced Tuesday that a sale of the mall is likely to close, pending approval from two Metro entities that could pass as early as October.

If Foursquare does secure the mall and its 70-acre site, the company plans to raze all of the structure – with the exception of existing anchor space occupied by Macy’s and Sears – and construct an open-air lifestyle center in its place.

“This could be huge. This could be the biggest thing going in Nashville right now,” said Gayla Pugh, executive director of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.

In the event that Foursquare secures the property, leases with existing tenants will be ended, according to Randy Bennett of Foursquare.

Though Foursquare is currently in talks with Macy’s and Sears about how to keep those two anchors in place and open for business throughout construction of the center, the mall’s other tenants could close their doors as early as December, Bennett said.

“We need to take all the leases and evaluate them,” Bennett said. “Most of the tenants have been extremely cooperative.”

Mall-watchers estimate that at least one-third of the mall is currently vacant, while most of the space currently in use is occupied by office tenants. Many of those tenants have been on short (one-year or less) leases for some time.

A need for relocation may not come as a surprise to tenants, but it will be a challenge for them to find space at similar prices.

Supporters of changes at the mall have long said low leasing rates at Bellevue Center have driven down average prices in the entire market. Foursquare has not yet announced ranges for possible leasing rates in the event of a property purchase, but they are expected to be much higher than what current tenants are paying.

Amber Shreve, who co-owns Bellevue Center tenant business Nodine-Shreve Realty Inc. with her husband, said her business moved to the mall because of low rates. She declined to name a dollar figure, but said the business’s rate is about one-fourth of what they paid at their previous location, the Harpeth Valley Office Park.

“You could rent an apartment for what we pay for this,” Shreve said. “It’s expensive to live in Bellevue. It’s expensive to work in Bellevue. Unless you work at the mall.”

Nodine-Shreve is currently gearing up to open a second location away from the mall, so a termination of the company’s Bellevue Center lease wouldn’t hurt the company much, Shreve said.

Gary Bush, owner of U.S. Jujitsu and Karate Center at Bellevue Center, said he would move to another location if his lease with Bellevue Center were terminated – but a new arrangement would likely be significantly more expensive.

“The rent’s so high at a lot of places that you can’t rent them, you can’t make a living,” Bush said. “It’s very difficult to move. Plus you have to come up with money to move.”

Foursquare has said the sale will likely close once clearance from Metro Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals is obtained. The area’s planned unit development (PUD) must be revised and approved by the Planning Commission, which could happen as early as the commission’s Oct. 25 meeting.

Clearance for larger, more visible signage could be obtained from the BZA as soon as Sept. 6. Both meetings are public.

Pugh said the Chamber is willing to work with current Bellevue Center tenants looking for a place to move.

“The human part of me is extremely concerned for the people who are in the mall now,” Pugh said. “People who occupy space in the mall are concerned, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, these things happen. I think it’s too soon to overact because [Foursquare] is not the official owner yet.”

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By: JohnGalt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I don't understand the new fascination with "lifestyle centers" which are nothing more than newage strip centers. Why don't people prefer climate controlled malls where you can park once, dash to one door through the rain, snow, heat, etc. and have access to all the shops without having to go back outside? I don't think the Green Hills Mall finds this objectionable.Just about time this "lifestyle" strip mall opens the pendelum will have swung back to enclosed malls and the cobwebs will gather again.

By: 37205Democrat on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Remember when Green Hills Mall was set up like this new proposal? It wasn't called a "lifestyle center" but it was identical to this. Both ways, it succeeded. Location, location, location. This part of Bellevue is not a destination and this will fail.Put in a waterpark!

By: Boricuo on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I agree with both of you guys. As a future city planner who is very passionate about designing responsibly thought out neighborhoods, lifestyle centers really irritate me. They aren't a mall, and they DEFINITELY aren't the charming small town Main St. that they all pretend to be. Essentially they are the worst of both. You get the lack of 'place' and the environmentally unfriendliness of a mall or strip mall, but without the pleasant climate controlled environment. What's to like?These cheapo developers can make believe all they want, but they aren't fooling anybody. Either keep the mall as is, or take the time to redevelop this into an ACTUAL traditional neighborhood.

By: Mower on 12/31/69 at 6:00

A stadium for the Sounds would also fit there. The people who live around that mall have always been obsessed with preventing traffic and have fought any growth in that area. I'm not sure how they ever allowed the mall to be built in the first place.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Too far from town for a stadium. Come to think of it, too far from town for a mall.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"Bellevue Center tenants considering their options"Move or go out of business.It seems that price is the reason for some of the current tennants. How do they propose finding new tennants with much higher prices?

By: Vettergirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I think the lifestyle centers are much better than the indoor malls, a lot less crowded.

By: cherylaustin on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The reason they call it a "lifestyle center" is so that they can get taxpayer dollars for the streets and street lights surrounding the shops. They do this by putting a community center or library or some civicly-minded entity among the shops so that it qualifies for taxpayer money. So it is much cheaper for developers to do this: not only don't they have to pay for enclosing a mall (and air-conditioning/heating all that space) but they get financial help with the streets (parking lots, lighting, signs, etc.) that would otherwise need to be paid for by the developer's money. It is a win-win for the developers - but not the people. By the way, Bellevue is closer to town than Cool Springs, so you will never win the argument based on "too far from town" for a mall to be successful.

By: scooter1951 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I've lived in Bellevue for 30 years and worked at Bellevue Center since 1991. It opened with over 160 stores, many unique to Nashville at the time. Two years later when Cool Springs Galleria opened Bellevue Mall shoppers left like rats deserting a sinking ship (for reasons that pass all understanding). I'll probably lose my job if this redevelopment becomes reality, but if history is any lesson, I'll believe it when they start digging up dirt.

By: Darlab on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It is unfortunate the naysayers are the first to respond. I think the most important consideration in all of this is to recognize we have an opportunity to support our community and encourage growth and development. This growth could mean a great deal for homeowners, business owners, and families by the way of increased property values, increased business revenues, new businesses, and better resources for schools!