Apr 19, 2022 - Politics

Hickory Hollow Mall deal up for big vote

Photo illustration of Nashville Mayor John Cooper with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images

Metro Council will have an apparent do-or-die vote Tuesday on the proposed Hickory Hollow Mall deal.

Why it matters: The Cooper administration is touting the mall renovation project as a win-win for Antioch. It's a chance to improve health care outcomes and revitalize a community eyesore, the administration says.

Driving the news: Under Metro Council rules, no bond resolution can be approved while the city's operating budget is pending.

  • Cooper must propose his budget by May 1, making Tuesday night's meeting the last chance for council to consider the $44 million mall renovation deal until July.
  • But the city's option to buy the land expires June 28, according to information provided to council members Monday.

Yes, but: The agreement in principle between Cooper and VUMC was unveiled less than a month ago, so Metro Council members have expressed concerns that the deal could be approved before they've even seen an actual lease agreement, for example.

  • "It's hard to believe that they will have put so much on such a tight frame without it being on purpose," Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes tells Axios.

The other side: The Cooper administration sent a memo Monday attempting to assuage council members' questions, and also provided appraisals showing the mall buildings that would be purchased and then leased back to VUMC are valued at $43.2 million, just under the agreed purchase price.

  • The turnaround of nearly 30 days is similar to the time frame council members have to consider capital spending plans, the memo pointed out.
  • And while council members won't have a lease agreement to review, VUMC has promised city leaders that its rent payments won't be less than the annual debt obligations.

What they're saying: "Mayor Cooper believes in the project and the benefits it will provide to the southeast Nashville community," Cooper spokesperson TJ Ducklo said in a statement. "We are looking forward to continuing our ongoing discussions with council members."

  • The Cooper administration and Metro Councilmember Joy Styles, who represents the area, are planning to seek community feedback about how the city can use the rest of the complex.

📜 In addition to the Hickory Hollow mall renovation, Metro Council will consider a resolution that would place a series of proposed charter amendments on the ballot.

  • A proposed amendment from Mendes would change the process for petition-driven charter amendments. The city is entrenched in litigation over a separate anti-tax charter amendment that was created with a petition drive.

🚔 Councilmember Zulfat Suara has proposed changing the charter to set new physical ability qualifications for the police department.

ğŸŽ¤ Council will also consider a plan to apply a historic overlay on the Exit/In music venue building.

  • The overlay was pitched by the new owners of the building, AJ Capital Partners, who have vowed to save the music venue. The fate of the longtime operators remains uncertain.

ğŸŽ¶ Council will also vote on a resolution from Metro Councilmember Jeff Syracuse to revive the Music City Music Council.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to state that bond resolution approvals are governed by a Metro Council rule, not a law.


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