Tenants at Bellevue Center are considering their options, as a sale of the mall for redevelopment looks more likely.
Representatives of prospective mall buyer Foursquare Properties Inc. announced Tuesday that a sale of the mall is likely to close, pending approval from two Metro entities that could pass as early as October.
If Foursquare does secure the mall and its 70-acre site, the company plans to raze all of the structure – with the exception of existing anchor space occupied by Macy’s and Sears – and construct an open-air lifestyle center in its place.
“This could be huge. This could be the biggest thing going in Nashville right now,” said Gayla Pugh, executive director of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.
In the event that Foursquare secures the property, leases with existing tenants will be ended, according to Randy Bennett of Foursquare.
Though Foursquare is currently in talks with Macy’s and Sears about how to keep those two anchors in place and open for business throughout construction of the center, the mall’s other tenants could close their doors as early as December, Bennett said.
“We need to take all the leases and evaluate them,” Bennett said. “Most of the tenants have been extremely cooperative.”
Mall-watchers estimate that at least one-third of the mall is currently vacant, while most of the space currently in use is occupied by office tenants. Many of those tenants have been on short (one-year or less) leases for some time.
A need for relocation may not come as a surprise to tenants, but it will be a challenge for them to find space at similar prices.
Supporters of changes at the mall have long said low leasing rates at Bellevue Center have driven down average prices in the entire market. Foursquare has not yet announced ranges for possible leasing rates in the event of a property purchase, but they are expected to be much higher than what current tenants are paying.
Amber Shreve, who co-owns Bellevue Center tenant business Nodine-Shreve Realty Inc. with her husband, said her business moved to the mall because of low rates. She declined to name a dollar figure, but said the business’s rate is about one-fourth of what they paid at their previous location, the Harpeth Valley Office Park.
“You could rent an apartment for what we pay for this,” Shreve said. “It’s expensive to live in Bellevue. It’s expensive to work in Bellevue. Unless you work at the mall.”
Nodine-Shreve is currently gearing up to open a second location away from the mall, so a termination of the company’s Bellevue Center lease wouldn’t hurt the company much, Shreve said.
Gary Bush, owner of U.S. Jujitsu and Karate Center at Bellevue Center, said he would move to another location if his lease with Bellevue Center were terminated – but a new arrangement would likely be significantly more expensive.
“The rent’s so high at a lot of places that you can’t rent them, you can’t make a living,” Bush said. “It’s very difficult to move. Plus you have to come up with money to move.”
Foursquare has said the sale will likely close once clearance from Metro Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals is obtained. The area’s planned unit development (PUD) must be revised and approved by the Planning Commission, which could happen as early as the commission’s Oct. 25 meeting.
Clearance for larger, more visible signage could be obtained from the BZA as soon as Sept. 6. Both meetings are public.
Pugh said the Chamber is willing to work with current Bellevue Center tenants looking for a place to move.
“The human part of me is extremely concerned for the people who are in the mall now,” Pugh said. “People who occupy space in the mall are concerned, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, these things happen. I think it’s too soon to overact because [Foursquare] is not the official owner yet.”