Bellevue Mall on the table for a high school retrofit

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 11:45pm

At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, representing the wishes of some Bellevue area residents, is exploring what it would take to retrofit the old Bellevue Center mall into a new magnet high school.

Over the weekend, Tygard organized what he thought would be a small gathering of parents and community activists to discuss opening a new high school in Bellevue. To his surprise, the Saturday morning gathering turned into an overflow crowd of nearly 60 residents.

“Maybe we ought to at least explore the possibility of whether a mall would be a good retrofit for a school,” Tygard said he came away thinking. “There might be a deal to be had there.”

For years, residents have pushed for a new high school to ease the long distance Bellevue students travel to attend Hillwood High School. Lengthy trips are an unreasonable compromise, some have contended, considering the student body at Hillwood — located in the affluent West Meade neighborhood — contains many more Bellevue students than West Meade children, who often enroll at private institutions.

The school also contains a large population of students bused in from north Nashville.

Momentum has even led to the creation of a citizen-led blog “dedicated getting a new high school built and running in Bellevue,” found at — named after the Bellevue ZIP code.

“I hear everyday from parents who are concerned either about the distance from their home to Hillwood or other issues relating to Hillwood,” Tygard said. “And we hear everyday of parents that choose a Williamson County home just over the (Davidson County) border ... because of the school choice.”

Though still very much in a discussion phase, Tygard and Bellevue residents have talked about turning the 848,000-square-foot Bellevue Center into a magnet high school that could complement a new Edible Schoolyard that Tygard hopes will begin at Bellevue Middle School within a few months. Unlike some magnet schools that take into account academic performance, admissions would be solely lottery-based.

“If we do go forward with this, I think it’s important that we have a game plan,” Tygard said. “That goes hand-in-hand with the edible schoolyard that we’re looking to establish this spring at Bellevue Middle School.”

Meanwhile, the existing Hillwood High School building would close down, under Tygard’s plan, with its property going back to H.G. Hill Realty Company, which could potentially redevelop the campus for residential use.

“We would put property back on the tax rolls where Hillwood High School sits and use that funding as an incentive to relocate the high school to Bellevue,” Tygard said.

But the Bellevue Center — where only a single Sears store remains — is also the focus of a $130 million mixed-use redevelopment plan that would turn the west Nashville facility into an open-air shopping center.

That project, proposed by the California-based Foursquare Properties, contains a new Bellevue branch library to be operated by the Metro Pubic Library system, a component that helped the developer receive tax-increment financing. Plans, however, haven’t moved forward.

“The one-year expiration is in March,” Tygard said. “So, if nothing is presented in March then basically that $8 million in tax-increment financing goes away.”

Tygard said representatives of Foursquare haven’t returned his phone calls. He said retrofitting the mall to house a new high school would require down-zoning the mall’s property.

“The new high school could work in conjunction with the library,” Tygard said. “And perhaps retail would still work there. We don’t want to run Sears away and shut down any more of Nashville’s tax base.”

21 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 1/26/10 at 1:43

The masses do not understand the intent of a magnet school. It is to educate the very brightest.

Creating five or six more magnet schools would leave the normal schools as nothing but holding tanks for the underclass. It would become a form of discrimination against poor breeding,poor discipline,poor intellectual capacity and general malaise.

Now that would be a real case for the Supreme Court!

By: house_of_pain on 1/26/10 at 6:08

I'd rather have the retail development. The last thing we need in that area of Hwy. 70S is a school zone.

By: Funditto on 1/26/10 at 6:41

Guess it won't be an IKEA like most people hoped. That would bring more money than anything.

By: dogmrb on 1/26/10 at 7:32

It's nice that Bellevue gets one more CM than the rest of the city. "Also, Bellevue mall is so "centrally" located to serve magnet students from all over the city", he said sarcastically.

By: xhexx on 1/26/10 at 8:02

NOOOOOOOO. The LAST thing we need in Bellevue is for Hwy 70 to turn into Hillsboro Road twice a day with the traffic tie ups between buses and student cars. And then have another school zone less than a mile away for Bellevue Middle.
This is a horrible idea.

By: govskeptic on 1/26/10 at 8:04

Another spooky ideal from our (unlegally challenged) Councilman-at-large.
I'm sure a majority of those in attendance are the school neighbors who
would love to see the closing of this school. Councilman Tygard's
motives for this Center are ever changing. Besides getting taxpayer
funded health care for former ineligble councilman Adam Dread
(because of lack of time served on council) through the council
this proposal ranks right up there with the TV type sign ordiance
he proposed and thankfully lost out on. This should get very
little attention from the school board or council.

By: Mama Butterfly on 1/26/10 at 8:35

When are you going to give this up Charlie?. About a year ago you proposed putting a Bellevue High School on the old-growth forest in Bellevue. At the time, the Friends of Warner Park were still very publicly raising funds to purchase that property, so you knew that you were proposing construction of a high school on an unavailable tract of land. But you managed to win some political points with some local residents who didn't realize that your "proposal" was just a weak attempt to one-up Bellevue's actual Council representatives .

And now you are proposing that the mall property be used for a high school, while at the same time the two Council representatives for Bellevue have made it clear that they want this area be turned into a retail area. Why don't you let them do their job and stay out of their business? You were "RE-elected" to represent the interests of the entire city, but unfortunately you continue to inject yourself into Bellevue's politics and make our Council representatives' jobs much more difficult.

While I would like a new high school in Bellevue, I think it is more important that you let OUR Council representatives and School Board make those decisions. It is painfully clear to me that you are more interested in making a name for yourself than you are for actually doing what is best for our community. You are leading our citizens on "wild goose chases" and countering the wishes of our actual representatives. It is insulting that you act as if our citizens are too stupid to see through your ruses, and it's just downright rude that you interfere with the work of our Council representatives.

Please just go back to infuriating the whole city with your relentless LED proposals and leave us alone.

By: JeffF on 1/26/10 at 9:00

Give it up Tygard, the only thing that can get Metro to spend tax money on areas not named "downtown" is by threat of lawsuit. It is stupid that Metro buses students to West Meade. But in the end, Bellevue (like all other actual Nashvilel neighborhoods)is required to have retail so that the downtown lords can collect the money for projects within the castle walls.

I would like Bellvue to redevelop the mall property, but I would also like Metro to quit using my community as collateral for the debt it amasses in the name of downtown redevelopment. I am sure the people of Antioch felt the same way after seeing their schools bust at the seams for over two decades while Metro fiddled with magnet schools, libraries, and land ports in the sparsely populated but over serviced urban core.

By: anniem on 1/26/10 at 1:30

I graduated from Hillwood in 1975, and it was a great school. It could be great again if neighborhood children had a reason to return.
I live very close to HHS, and aside from the football field noise (and some afternoon traffic) have no problem with it. The only issue the neighbors have is with the PA system since it was upgraded and the buffer vegetation was severely cut back five years ago.

I can tell you for a fact that the neighbors think HHS is a good neighbor.

We don't need more 'estate' homes built on small lots.

By: Bellevue citezen on 1/26/10 at 7:21

I am a Bellevue Mom who has lived here for a while now. I cannot believe all these negative comments. I understand that we all have different views on the details of
where and what type of High school we should have, but lets first get together to get
a High school. As far as listening to what Bellevue people want, that is exactly what is happening. The majority want and we need a Bellevue High school. This part of the city has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and we need and should have a community High school. The rest of the city areas have at least two!
We also should have a Library! I promise all of you that this part of town will die if all of the families keep moving out after Elementary school. As far as who is leading the push... WHO GIVES A ****! Lets just make it happen! Our children need this, and if you do not have children your property value will go up instead of continuing to go down if people want to move here and stay here.
Instead all of you I have read so far on this blog, forget the POLITICAL ARGUING and lets get on with making this part of Nashville what it should be. What every other town has, even towns in the middle of nowheres ville. If we do not talk, argue, push, blog, facebook, and get the school board and our so called congress off there butts now, it will not ever happen. I think people who believe we should just sit back and wait for the school board to do their jobs, probably don't accomplish much
, and are gossipers and followers instead of heros and leaders.
Bellevue has been jipped for too long now. I say HURRAH to anyone willing to get this long overdue ball rollin!
All the details can be argued about later. Let's grow up now people and get our children safe and smart, get our property values back up and by all means do not wait for the school board or our congress people to do their JOB!!!!!!!

By: Mama Butterfly on 1/26/10 at 8:54

Bellevue "citezen",

I am a Bellevue mom who has lived here for over a decade now. My son is an MNPS student and I am actively involved with his school. It has become painfully obvious that his school is struggling to purchase needed items because the money is just not there to spend. How in the world can MNPS afford to build a new school when it can't even meet the needs of our existing schools? We need to increase our tax base if we want to increase MNPS' budget and, subsequently, improve the quality of our school programs and buildings. [Follow the link to this article-- see how MNPS depends on sales tax revenue for funding.] And it should be noted that we lost a large amount of sales tax revenue when the Bellevue Mall went out of business--rebuilding/reviving the mall will put that that revenue back in MNPS' coffers and, subsequently, make the district more likely to build a new high school in Bellevue.

I find your statement about "the majority" of Bellevue residents wanting a new high school interesting because I don't believe a there has been a poll conducted about this issue. While I believe that many people in Bellevue would like a high school in our area, I believe that a larger majority want a new mall much more than a new high school. For example, I attended a community meeting in the summer of 2007 in which the redevelopment of the mall was discussed. The theater at Bellevue Middle School was packed to overflowing and it was obvious that the overwhelming majority of people there wanted a new mall built--not a new high school. Oh, and in regards to your comment about Facebook, there is a Facebook group called "Bring IKEA to the Bellevue Center Mall, Now" that currently has over 6,000 members. So there is a large group of people who are not just sitting back and waiting for others to "do their jobs". Ironically, they just happen to be fighting for a mall, not a school.

Another Bellevue CITIZEN

By: Mama Butterfly on 1/26/10 at 9:08

Bellevue "citezen",
BTW, I have a hard time believing that the property taxes acquired from homes built on the Hillwood HS property would equal the sales tax revenue from a new mall. And I especially doubt that even several years worth of property taxes from the houses would be enough to pay off the debt incurred from building a new high school. Oh, and if Foursquare Developers had rebuilt the mall (as originally planned), we would have had a new library courtesy of TIF from Metro. So isn't it interesting that a new mall will likely bring us a new library and, in the future, a strong chance of getting a new high school?
Another Bellevue citizen

By: titansjoe on 1/26/10 at 9:08

Well Tygard is blowing smoke again. It must be another win win situation for the Nashville citizens.

Let me see if I understand this: We tear down Hillwood school and build houses so we can then begin to charge taxes for new homes that may or not be built. Then we purchase a large peice of retail property that is already paying taxes (that we will lose) and change it into a school that will not pay taxes. Wouldn't the large commercial property bring in more revenue than the residential property? (if homes were actually built)

Well it sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. I mean it must! Its sorta the same logic as the convention center isn't it.

I sure hope the citizens of Nashville have the good sense to replace the entire council in upcoming elections from the Vice mayor on down and replace them with people that will do the will of the people.

Hey, maybe in a few years we can turn the convention center into a Magnet school and fill the new hotel with homeless.

By: Bellevue citezen on 1/26/10 at 9:12

I am all for a Bellevue Mall. I hope that everything that was supposed to happen over a year ago will come to pass. I am certainly in favor of that over it just sitting there empty making Bellevue Look Stupid and like a bad part of town! However, as a mother, I am not only concerned about the quality of schooling my children get, but also the locale of a community High school.Therefore, I will not sit around as you suggested and wait for all this to happen. I will do something about it; and if I have then exhausted all my efforts then I will move to a better part of town that gets the respect it deserves, and is filled with people that are doers, and people that care about all aspects of where they live, and their children's education. This is an effort on our part and Mr. Tygarts part to build a better Bellevue.
Not to extinguish the Bellevue Mall.
I Hope they can get there **** together on the Bellevue Mall, glad to hear the Majority isn't sitting and waiting for that to happen.

By: Mama Butterfly on 1/26/10 at 11:27

Ms. "Citezen",

Why don't you go back and give my first post another read? I NEVER said that we should "sit around...and wait for all this to happen"--I said that Tygard should back off and let the Councilmen elected to represent Bellevue work on the situation. He is injecting himself into a situation that he does not need to be in, especially since he is telling the citizens of our community one thing, while our Bellevue representatives are telling us another. He is muddying the waters with his "proposals".

And I am disgusted by your attempts to paint Bellevue as a community filled with people who do not "care about all aspects of where they live" or "their children's education". You obviously feel this way about Bellevue or you would not be threatening to move to another part of town if Bellevue doesn't "get it's act together". Why don't you spend a day at my son's school and see all of the parents--myself and my husband included--spending countless hours helping it's students, teachers, and staff. Or you can come to my house and watch as I help my son with his homework or sit next to my husband as he reads to my son for an hour every night. And while you are out in my neighborhood, you can walk to the homes around me and listen to the other parents in our community as they do the same with their children. Your statements are offensive and degrading to not only me, but to all of the the good people of Bellevue who work our butts off every day to make this community a better place for ourselves and our children.

And, yes, it is an attempt, at least indirectly, to extinguish the mall. Where in the heck is a mall supposed to go if they build a high school over it? There is no other location in Bellevue so appropriate for building a retail center. Or maybe, Ms. "Citezen", you know something that the lowly public is not yet aware of. Do you have some sort of inside information that indicates that we could get both a new high school, library, and a mall? Might you have a direct ties to Mr. Tygard? Oh, do tell.....No? That's what I thought. Good night.

By: Sumsrent on 1/27/10 at 7:13

Bellevue doesn't need another High School. They just built one of the fanciest in the state out there on Hwy 100. Just around the corner from the Bellevue Mall area.

Bellevue is an older, smaller community with a small portion of young, percentage wise... the malls failure is a perfect example.

Why waste our time and tax dollars proposing such a stupid idea!

By: Sumsrent on 1/27/10 at 7:31

For those of you that are complaining about the quality of education that your children are missing out on...

Let me remind you that the citizens of this state were duped into passing the Lotto for education, when it was illegal for Churches to play Bingo. Those education funds went to the colleges... not the schools.

Say what you want about the scholarships... the fact stands that these colleges profit from this.

As the colleges expand with fancy dorms, etc. and are proposed to receive millions more, the school system is required to cut 11 million from their budget this year.

Hummm... seems like something’s wrong with this picture...

By: Bellevue citezen on 1/27/10 at 9:05

To all the people reading this and to Madam Butterfly, whom obviously is spending too much time just attacking people for their desire to improve Bellevue. Obviously I take care of my children just like all other Mom's and Dads do, but Bellevue has been in need of Better schools , a community High school, and a Library that is bigger than my closet for many many years now, so I have waited for our counsil people to do something about it, and non of them are! I already said I am in favor of the mall, and if all of you were fully informed by attending meetings then you would know that Mr. Tygart did not suggest the Mall for a High school, all the people at the meeting did. He actually suggested many other locations, and informed us that nothing could be done in the mall location until the waiting period is up to see if they are going ahead with the original plans. In other words we couldn't use it unless it fell through. I am sure everyone would agree they would rather see it a High school than just see it sit ther and rot. As far as me moving, I will if the people of Bellevue and the congress do not get off their butts and make something happen. Of which is what manyt parents are doing after middle school if not elementary, becuase the only people that have done anything in this town was many years ago when people took it apon themselves along with the Womans club built the current library. Of which we will loose the money set aside for the Library if the Mall falls apart, and we don't have a secondary plan in place. Now I am done waisting my time with this blog and I am gonna go out and try to improve Bellevue.

By: Bellevue citezen on 1/27/10 at 4:28

BTW Sumsrent the school you mentioned on Hwy 100 is a Private school that cost $20,000 just for Kindergarten. I don't think anyone in Bellevue can aford or is sending their children there. So, I don't think that counts; and if our congress men
would have done something about a Bellevue High school a few years ago, that property could have been used for a Bellevue Community school instead of overpriced Ensworth who only the wealthiest of Brentwood Attend.
So we could just stop talking about a high school, and watch the Bellevue Mall plan fall through, along with the money for a Library, and we wont have a Mall, a school or a Library and the Congressmen of Bellevue can go back to sitting on their butts, and all of us Mom's who care can move out after Elementary school. That is what all of you are asking for.

By: Sumsrent on 1/28/10 at 12:29

Ms. citezen...
Then I stand corrected... my bad.

I don't live in Bellevue, but I do drive by the elaborate Ensworth. My opinion was based on that school being in the district. Therefore I didn't see the need for wasting more tax dollars on another one just to appease those that would have felt the need to have one closer to their homes. As silly as that sounds... I wouldn't put it past the agenda of some.

Although, converting the mall into a High School seems expensive… it would appear to be a bit of a security risk to the students too, considering the size. Based on what I've seen and heard, new construction is typically more cost effective. I don't claim to be an expert, maybe someone else could expound.

Additionally; since you've mentioned a Library... the internet has made these buildings, for the most part, extinct. My opinion… but certainly these places aren’t used much anymore and have been a funding problem for many cities.

At any rate... press on. I hope y'all get a High School if you already don't have one. If Hillsboro is your source, I would agree that is too far.

Although, do us a favor... as you work on your representatives; get them to require all new schools to be built off the main highways. The traffic school zones are a mess in this state!

By: Mama Butterfly on 1/28/10 at 12:52

Hey "Citezen",

I am not sure if you are truly reading my posts. How am I attacking people for their desire to help Bellevue? I am attacking people who cannot see beyond the nose on their own face. MNPS does not have the money for a new school right now: As mentioned in a recent City Paper article, they currently have a 40 million dollar budget shortfall. Charlie knows this, but he is just throwing whatever he can against the wall to see if any of his political spaghetti will stick. (There is another election coming up in 2011--he has to try and make himself look good if he wants to have any chance of winning in this city ever again.) For goodness sake, the school board members and MNPS had no idea that a new HS was on anyone's agenda because it isn't even on their radar. How can they afford to open a new high school when many of their current school buildings are in desperate need of repair? Oh, in addition, the Council does not have the power to determine when and where a high school is opened--that is the will of the School Board. All Charlie has the "power" to do is shift our focus from the realities of our current situation, and those realities are as follows:

1) MNPS is 40 million in the hole.
2) MNPS needs more money.
3) If we increase our sales tax base, we will increase the money MNPS will receive.
4) A new mall in Bellevue will help increase the sales tax revenue.
5) Therefore, a new mall = larger sales tax revenue = more money going to MNPS = greater likelihood that MNPS will eventually build a new high school in Bellevue.

As stated above, Nashville does not have the money to build a school right now and Charlie knows this. And instead of pushing to get the mall going again so we can build up our tax revenue and provide more funding to MNPS, he is getting a small number of people worked up about building a high school that is just not an option right now. I don't know how to spell this out any more clearly for you, but based on your previous posts, it doesn't appear that you will understand it anyway. Maybe Charlie will read it though. I'm sure he will understand...

Yours truly,
Madam/Mama Butterfly