Nashville’s first major innovation district proposed for dead Global Mall at the Crossings in Antioch
Construction on Nashville’s first major “innovation district” designed for startups and technology businesses could begin early next year at the dead Global Mall at the Crossings in Antioch.
Local car dealership owner Ben Freeland will present plans he’s studied since entering into a contract to buy the 600,000-square-foot mall in June on Tuesday night. The public meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Southeast Nashville Community Center.
“I think it’s a transformative opportunity for Nashville,” Freeland said. “If we do this right, we think the potential here is huge.”
New upscale office and residential buildings are in the early design plans along with entertainment uses and retail shops. No tenants have been named.
The mall’s parking lot would be overhauled with walkable streets and sidewalks, and a new transit center, Freeland said.
The mall has been vacant since 2012, but the former department stores surrounding it have since been redeveloped.
It’s now ringed by the Ford Ice Center, Bridgestone offices, a Nashville State Community College campus, a public library and a community center.
Rather than tearing down the indoor mall, built in the late 1970s as the Hickory Hollow Mall, Freeland wants to turn it into an array of offices and spaces for manufacturing, logistics and hospitality startups and technology companies.
“We’re in an innovation desert between St. Louis and Atlanta,” he said. “This is how we leverage someone like Amazon relocating here, and all these universities in the area are creating educated students who want to start their own businesses.”
The plans are inspired by the Capital City Innovation District in Austin and Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, among similar projects around the country.
Google leased office space this year in a former West Los Angeles indoor mall, Westside Pavillion, that is being renovated into a media and technology center.
Affordability expected to attract startups
Nashville has a “thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem” but could benefit from larger, affordable industrial spaces, said M. Eric Johnson, dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
“Certainly the city has a nice collection of shared work spaces in various configurations, from WeWork to maker spaces,” Johnson said. “That said, as you go up in sophistication for more specialized areas, there are areas where there could be great opportunities. Affordability is the real issue, particularly as companies start to scale.”
Antioch’s relatively affordable housing prices have helped make it the fastest growing community in Nashville.
“We have some viable ideas we can execute, but we want to hear more about what the community wants,” Freeland said. “The mall allows us to keep a price point that’s affordable for this type of innovation.”
Investors already are developing hotels, housing complexes, offices and new retail shops around the mall, located off Interstate 24 at Bell Road.
Tanger Outlets is planning a new location at the 300-acre Century Farms development about a mile away. That project also has attracted office tenants Asurion, Bridgestone Americas, TriStar Medical Group, Community Health Systems and car-parts maker LKQ.
The Hickory Hollow Parkway exit of Interstate 24 is now being redesigned to accommodate more traffic.
Sandy Mazza can be reached via email at [email protected], by calling 615-726-5962, or on Twitter @SandyMazza.