New Walmart will give 100 Oaks area another boost

The Tennessean
June 30, 2011

One Hundred Oaks

When a commercial neighborhood gets a Walmart, it's proably a good sign even in rocky economic times.

Surely, if any company knows how to find a thriving customer base, it's Walmart.

The revitalized 100 Oaks Mall area will soon be home to a new 96,000-square-foot store, another indication that Nashville's original mall and its surrounding retail community have re-established itself as a commercial hotspot since Vanderbilt University Medical Center moved several outpatient clinics there a couple of years ago.

The new Walmart will be about half the size of the chain's typical supercenter (185,000 square feet). The store would be the smallest Walmart Supercenter in Nashville, said company spokeswoman Tice White, but it's still considered a supercenter.

"It will still have an assortment of grocery and general merchandise, along with the usual pharmacy, deli, etc.,'' White said. "Simply on a smaller scale, but the same principle."

Walmart will rehab the old Expo Design Center on Powell Avenue next to CarMax and Home Depot, and on the opposite side of 100 Oaks where 1,300 Vanderbilt employees work, patients congregate, and shoppers from Berry Hill, Woodbine and neighborhoods near Thompson Lane take advantage of new retail outlets and restaurants.

"It lets you know the community is building up," 100 Oaks shopper Shennel Williams said. "I love Walmart."

Another shopper, Lamont Bunch, said he was sure Walmart puts in plenty of research when deciding where to place a store, seeing it as a positive for the community, which badly needs a grocery store.

"I'm interested to see what kind of layout and what kind of product they'll have," said Angela Heering, a 100 Oaks patron who works for a local real estate company in Berry Hill. "This is more of a business area now. I think it will be a convenience."

A locally owned business was the first choice of many in Woodbine, according to neighborhood association President Tamara Price.

But the neighborhood also has several goals, such as making Woodbine a more walkable community and improving Coleman Park. "We look forward to working with Walmart as a corporate partner on reaching those goals," Price said.

The new Walmart is expected to bring about 200 jobs, White said.

Impact on business

Some have expressed concern about the future Walmart's impact on local business, especially in Berry Hill, a satellite city of just under a square mile with about 400 businesses, near the 100 Oaks area and the future Walmart.

But Pat Embree, who owns the Stitchin' Post in Berry Hill with her husband, Mike Embree, believes the Walmart can help attract potential new customers to the area without competing with the majority of stores there that sell niche products.

"The biggest problem we have is awareness of the whole Berry Hill district," Pat Embree said. "Personally, I think anytime you bring more people to an area, that's good. And, it's a grocery store desert."

Completion of the Walmart is estimated for late 2011, with a grand opening targeted for the first quarter of 2012, White said.

Metro issued a building permit for the renovation last week. Construction will cost about $4 million, according to the permit. A real estate arm of Walmart bought the vacant property, about 9.4 acres, in 2010.

"This is a major space that was vacant and it will bring more vitality and diversity of goods to the area," Councilwoman Anna Page said.

The mall handles more than 2,000 cars a day on average, said Tony Ruggeri, a partner in the ownership group.

Several lights were realigned at the mall and another was added in 2008 as 100 Oaks was redeveloped. Ruggeri acknowledges more traffic will come with a Walmart, but believes the improvements have helped.