Retail life after the Nashville flood

The historic May flood of 2010 in Nashville and Middle Tennessee took 23 lives, displaced thousands of residents and flooded hundreds of businesses, as more than 13 inches of rain was recorded over a two-day period and the Cumberland River reached nearly 12 ft. above flood stage.

Among the business casualties was the Opry Mills, a Simon Property Group outlet retail destination seven miles from downtown Nashville and a short walking distance from the Grand Ole Opry.

Flood waters submerged the property, and an ensuing battle with the insurers to cover the $200 million in damages has left the shopping center and its retail inhabitants shuttered and silent for nearly a year.

But Simon announced Tuesday that Opry Mills has reached an agreement with its lenders Helaba Bank and Nord/LB to finance the rebuilding of the mall. Litigation with the insurers will continue, but in the meantime the property will launch its rehab construction and is slated to reopen in 2012.

"We are thrilled that Opry Mills will be able to spring back to life," said Gregg Goodman, president of The Mills, a Simon company. "Our shoppers will once again be able to experience the great shopping, dining, and entertainment options that made Opry Mills such a huge hit when it opened in 2000 and the general community will benefit from the construction jobs, the return of the retail jobs, and the resulting tax revenues."

Goodman said work to get Opry Mills reopened next year would start immediately. He added that he and his leasing team have met with many retailers and expected a majority of the mall's tenants to be open in the spring 2012.

The majority of the previous anchor tenants have committed to be part of the reopening plans, including Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue, Regal Cinemas Opry Mills Stadium 20 & IMAX, Dave & Buster's, Rainforest Cafe, Aquarium Restaurant, Off Broadway Shoes, and an expanded Forever 21. Bass Pro Shops has already reopened.

Previous in-line stores that have also committed to the restored Opry Mills include Banana Republic Factory Store, J. Crew Factory, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Ann Taylor Factory Store, Victoria's Secret and Tommy Hilfiger Company Store.

Additionally, according to the Opry Mills, many new tenants to the property are anticipated to open in spring 2012 such as Coach Factory Store, Calvin Klein, Tommy Bahama Outlet, Talbots, Chico's, White House Black Market, Under Armour Factory House and The LEGO Store.

"The response from the retail community has been incredibly positive and enthusiastic," Goodman said. "It's clear that they prospered at Opry Mills and are anxious to return."

"Regal Entertainment Group is eager to rebuild Regal Cinemas Opry Mills Stadium 20 & IMAX and we're delighted to be part of the restored Opry Mills," said Dick Westerling, senior VP marketing at Regal Entertainment Group. "As a Tennessee-headquartered business ourselves, we're happy that this great retail and entertainment landmark is coming back."

"The decision to reopen Opry Mills is a testament to Nashville's strong economy and our resilience in recovering from the 2010 May flood," Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said. "Opry Mills provides over 3,000 retail jobs in our community and has a significant impact on our tax base and the other businesses in the Music Valley area. Its return in 2012 will be another great moment in our city's recovery, and we very much look forward to that day."

Opry Mills/Simon’s lawsuit against the insurers was filed in the Chancery Court of Davidson County last September, claiming that the insurers refused to honor a contractual commitment for flood insurance coverage. The case will proceed while Opry Mills is being rebuilt.