Shopping for space, health systems make over malls

The hulking Hickory Hollow Mall — a full 1.1 million square feet of retail space in southeastern Nashville — was once the largest shopping center in Tennessee. But like many malls, it’s been in a downward death spiral for more than a decade.

Now the mammoth complex surrounded by acres of parking is on track to join the ranks of malls making a transition into a booming economic sector: medicine. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has had such success reviving a different mall that its health system, Vanderbilt Health, plans to add medical clinics at the former Hickory Hollow Mall, rebranded a decade ago as the Global Mall at the Crossings.

“The possibilities for service offerings in a facility of this scale are endless,” Dr. Jeff Balser, the medical center’s CEO, announced in March. What big-city health systems need most is something shopping malls have plenty of: space and parking. They offer convenience for patients and practitioners, as well as costing less than expanding an existing hospital campus.

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