Nearly a year after severe flooding closed Nashville’s Opry Mills shopping mall, officials said reconstruction is set to begin.
After an initial cleanup, progress on the reconstruction had been stalled for months because insurers would provide only $50 million. The Mills company has said the mall suffered more than $200 million in damage, and in September it filed suit against 17 insurance companies claiming they owed another $150 million.
On Tuesday, Mills President Gregg Goodman said the company will not have to wait for the outcome of that suit to move forward. While the lawsuit is ongoing, the company has reached an agreement with lenders that will allow for rebuilding to begin immediately.
Goodman said the mall is expected to reopen next spring with some anchor tenants planning to open before year’s end. Only the Bass Pro Shops is currently open.
Gov. Bill Haslam spoke after the announcement, saying the reopening will mean 3,000 more jobs for Tennesseans and about $26 million dollars more in sales tax, about $20 million for the state and the remainder for the city.
“This shows confidence in this state and this region, for their willingness to reinvest,” Haslam said. “If you know anything about the retail industry, you’ll know there’s not a whole lot of building going on right now.”
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said that the construction jobs will help the city and seeing construction start up at the mall again will be a morale boost for residents. Chain link fencing currently blocks off the vacant buildings and parking lots of the mall, which can be seen from the main thoroughfare of Briley Parkway.
“Nashville has come a long way in the 11 months since the May floods,” Dean said. “The pace of recovery is well beyond what is typical.”
He cited the reopening of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center and the Grand Old Opry as signs of progress, but said there is still work to do.
“It is a multi-year process,” Dean said of the recovery efforts. “The city will not be satisfied until we see every person back in their homes.”
Dean and Haslam said The Mills company has not asked for any tax breaks or other incentives to aid in the rebuilding.
Goodman said most of the previous anchor tenants have committed to staying in the mall and several new retailers are coming as well. After the rebuild, it will have over 200 stores.
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