Hickory Hollow, a struggling Nashville mall is looking to education, an unusual savior, to attract mall traffic to its retail businesses. By 2012, Hickory Hollow Mall could be first mall in the nation to house an alternative high school, a community college and a charter school. It’s following a national trend behind many malls already filling vacancies with tenants not typically found in shopping centers. There are two distinct positives by doing this; the remaining merchants in the mall will get more foot traffic while the growing Nashville community will get an education center. It’s a model Charity Woods hopes will restore the bustling Hickory Hollow Mall she experienced as a teen. Charity lives in Antioch and works at the mall as a counselor for The Academy at Hickory Hollow, which helps students ages 17-21 finish high school.
As a teen, she says “It was the best mall to come and shop at…It was full of great stores with quality clothes, and you would be able to find pretty much anything.” During the late 1990s, the mall suffered a series of serious blows to its business. Crime coupled with competition of suburban retailers left a wave of retail vacancies, and no need for shoppers to come. General Manager Angie Carter shared with the Tennessean, “We had perception issues that we’ve overcome… This is a welcomed change to the traditional mall footprint, and it’s definitely here to stay.” The long term goal is to have a retail corridor between anchor stores Macy’s and Sears and the other two wings filled with educational and miscellaneous tenants. Today the mall already holds the alternative school, dance and karate classes, and the styles barber college. Knowledge Academies, a charter school for grades 5-8, is interested in the vacant space on the Dillard’s wing and plans to open in July 2012. Nashville State Community College is also negotiating for the former Dillard’s space and could open there either in the summer or fall of 2012. Jesse Tron, a spokesman with New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers, said he hasn’t seen an influx of schools into shopping centers but believes the partnership can work and add business to tenants. The results can be profitable, he said. The retailers benefit as parents waiting on their children to finish up a dentist appointment or arts class in the mall pass time by shopping. This is an authentic and creative idea, that many believe can work (source) (picture).