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Metro Council votes to buy former Hickory Hollow Mall site

Global Mall
Posted at 8:08 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 07:57:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The former Hickory Hall Mall site will now go into the hands of the Metro Nashville government after council voted Tuesday night on the purchase.

Council voted 28 to 3, with four council members abstaining.

Among the parcels of land to comprise the site, Metro will pay $46 million for the Antioch property, now known as Global Mall at the Crossings. Mayor John Cooper made the announcement about the city's intention to purchase the site back in late March.

"For over a decade, the Global Mall has been in need of dire attention," said councilperson Joy Styles, who represents District 32 in Antioch. "Tonight, we have the opportunity to make that happen. It's an investment in our city as a whole."

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has also signed a letter of intent to negotiate a long-term lease of at least 600,000 square feet for health care-related services. The plan will mimic 100 Oaks south of the city. In addition to the health care aspect, the property will also house a performing arts center.

Councilperson Sandra Sepulveda, who represents District 30 in southeast Nashville, said she was going to abstain. She said she had more questions than answers. She said she took issue with the owner of the current property, Rajesh Aggarwal, who was previously under fire for labor infractions in federal court in 2013 and 2015. He is currently a professor at Middle Tennessee State University. In the suit from 2013, Aggarwal owned and operated two hotels in downtown Nashville — the Best Western Music Row and the Comfort Inn Downtown Nashville. Workers who sued him accused him of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Being someone who is the daughter of someone who cleaned hotel rooms, that is not something I would be in favor of tonight. That is why I will be abstaining. I don't want to give the message that southeast doesn't deserve funding, but I can't vote yes tonight."

Other members of the council like Bob Mendes, said he would vote no.

"It's not fully baked. Councilman Cooper, when he was here — there's not a snowball's chance in hell he would vote for this. There's up to $7.6 million in operating costs. You start adding it all up, and I am all in favor of investment, but there is no tenant for any of it. Vanderbilt has expressed the right to walk away. This fundamentally comes down when real estate developers fall in love with the property and say they will figure it out later. That's what is before us now, and that's not good enough for me to have a yes vote."

Proponents of the purchase said this would re-energize the Antioch area, which previously thrived for decades during the mall's heyday. Hickory Hollow opened its doors in the late 1970s, and had anchor stores like Cain Sloan, Sears and Castner Knott. For four years, it was the largest mall in Tennessee.

In the late 1990s, the mall expanded further with the addition of Carmike Cinemas. But in 2008, three of mall's largest box stores — Dillard's, Steve & Barry and Linens n' Things — left vacant space on the property. This added only to JCPenny leaving the mall a few years prior.

By 2019, all of the mall's tenants were gone.

Council member Styles said a series of community meetings would be held over the next six months to get input on the project.