Changes likely for 100 Oaks Mall traffic access

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 2:26am

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s forthcoming facilities at 100 Oaks are not slated to be completed until next summer, but changes in the area are likely on the way sooner than that.

With the November opening of VUMC’s first 100 Oaks facility, officials said Monday that changes to ease traffic congestion expected to increase along with Vanderbilt’s presence are underway.

While plans are preliminary, changes are in-store for the mall’s key vehicular access points. Currently, Powell Avenue has the bulk of mall entrances, but the intersection of Thompson Lane and Bransford Avenue — the key route into Berry Hill — handles a huge chunk of the volume.

One possibility is a reworking of the mall’s entrance from Powell Avenue, where traffic is currently channeled by one-lane, one-way entrance and exit ramps. Coming instead may be a single entrance, with a traffic light, directly across from an entrance to Home Depot, according to VUMC spokesperson Jerry Jones.

Jones cautioned that plans are still preliminary. A community meeting will take place in late October, in which public comment will be accepted and some plans will be shared.

Mall management representatives could not be reached for comment Monday.

Joe Baker, city manager of Berry Hill, said his office would like to see an intersection with a traffic light and crosswalk at one of the mall’s Thompson Lane entrances, to enable pedestrians to visit Berry Hill businesses easily. But that office is not involved formally with the developer’s plans at this point, and 100 Oaks is situated in Metro — rather than Berry Hill — city limits, he said.

“We have just expressed an entrance,” Baker said.

In July, VUMC signed a long-term lease agreement with 100 Oaks to use a total of 436,524 of 100 Oaks’s 850,000 square feet for administrative and clinical purposes, filling the mall’s second and third floors as well as the nearby office tower.

Traffic impact to the area is expected to be massive — VUMC expects more than 1,000 staff members to work from 100 Oaks, and for the space to accommodate a patient flow of about 2,000 per day.

The first influx of staff begins when a children’s rehabilitation facility opens in November.

Frank Mihalopoulos and Tony Ruggeri, the partners in mall ownership company 100 Oaks Plaza LLC as well as M & R Investors LLC of Dallas, have stated that they have been working with the city to realign traffic lights, to create better traffic flow patterns, and to reconfigure entrances and exits with a boulevard leading to the main entrance, the office entrance and the patient entrance.

The redevelopment will cost tens of millions. Mihalopoulos and Ruggeri have said renovations to the mall’s interior and exterior will represent a “significant investment.”

C. Wright Pinson, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at VUMC, has said the hospital anticipates spending $36 million for renovations and build-out on top of the developer’s lease allowance.

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