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Familiar Opry Mills Shops to Return for Spring Opening

According to a recent article in the Tennessean, developers of the Opry Mills mall say their rebuilding plans remain on track to be fully leased and have the shopping mall back to great shape by spring 2012.  The March 2012 reopening of the 1.2 million square foot site will have 200 retailers and a new layout and design that is projected to draw shoppers from all over the region.  Worse news is that May 2010 flood also sparked a lawsuit still being dragging out in court between majority owner Simon Property Group and its insurers.

The mall’s owners reached an agreement in April with its lenders, Helaba Bank and Nord/LB, to finance the ongoing repairs and reconstruction.  Since then, contractors have been up to their hands and knees in drywall, plumbing, and pulling building permits, according to Lauren Horsley, an Opry Mills spokeswoman.  “All the construction up to this point has been on the interior,” she said. “That’s why people don’t see it when they drive by. But there’s a lot of work going on.”  Over the reconstruction period, the mall has received 50 million dollars in insurance money to restore the shopping center.  The mall’s owners, however, claim they were insured for 200 million dollars, according to the lawsuit filed in the Davidson County Chancery Court.  Aon Corp., a broker named in the lawsuit along with a slew of other insurance companies, declined to comment when contacted about the case on Tuesday.

The trial date was scheduled originally for February but has been pushed back to July, confirmed attorney Charles Edwards, who is representing the Opry Mills Mall Limited Partnership and Simon Property Group.  Despite what people may think, excited mall goers need not to worry about the opening pending on the lawsuit.  Commercial real estate analyst Steve Rudd said Simon Property Group, the largest real estate firm in the country, will go ahead with the mall regardless of what happens with the contested $150 million insurance case.  “Of course it’s important to them, but Simon knows it’s going to be a viable deal regardless of how much money from insurance they get,” Rudd said of the mall’s reopening plans.  Earlier this summer, Opry Mills executives announced that by this Christmas season: Regal Cinemas & IMAX, Dave & Buster’s, VF Outlet and Sun & Ski Sports will open.  A number of retailers in the mall before the flooding have decided to come back, including Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger and Off Broadway Shoes.  Before the flood, the mall had around 3,000 people working at roughly 200 tenants. Some employees will be transferred from other stores. Still, many more retailers will be hiring new workers by next spring.  Metro Councilman Phil Claiborne said the mall’s reopening will undoubtedly provide the area with an economic lift (source) (picture 1) (picture 2).

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