Last week, Opry Mills’ PR team whipped the media into a frenzy with the promise of a big announcement at Opryland Hotel about the future of the super-mall. Speculation abounded. The governor and the mayor were invited, raising the specter of state and local incentives similar to what the hotel received, in
an effort to reopen the flood-ravaged shopping destination.
Maybe a reimagining as one of those fancy lifestyle-center malls with the focus on the out-of-doors and open spaces? Maybe (hope springs eternal) they’d just tear down the Wabash Shopping Mall and bring back the theme park?
Alas, it was not to be. The press conference was as devoid of exciting surprises as it was of free muffins. Announcing that it was springtime again at Opry Mills, PR man Les Morris said the mall would return in spring 2012 pretty much as is.
Oh, but how are they paying for it? Government handouts to big business, right?
Sadly for the cynical print types, no. They secured bank financing. Even worse for the TV types, the loan came from impossible-to-pronounce Landesbank Hessen-Thuringen Girozentrale. That’s based in Germany, if it wasn’t obvious.
New tenants? Yes please! Will it be long-awaited IKEA or H&M? Another swing and miss. New stores include the decidedly underwhelming Talbots and White House Black Market. Also, The LEGO Store, locking up the “I still play with the toys I played with in 1983” demographic.
Opry Mills coming back isn’t bad news, of course. The Simon Property Group could have shuttered and sold. Reopening should put 3,000 folks back to work and regenerate lost sales tax.
It’s just that, well, indoor shopping malls are sort of boring. Those lifestyle centers are the new hotness. It’s like shopping in a park — or at least in California. Old-style malls (Hickory Hollow) are dying. Lifestyle centers (Hendersonville’s Indian Lake Village) are thriving. Just because Opry Mills is bigger than most doesn’t make it any hipper.
Asked by an intrepid TV type what stores he was most looking forward to seeing reopen, Mayor Karl Dean offered The Aquarium Restaurant. The governor said he doesn’t shop.
Sounds like everyone was looking for a little bit more.