Shopping malls get makeovers, into medical centers


The hulking Hickory Hollow Mall — a total 1.1 million sq. ft of retail room in southeastern Nashville — was at the time the most significant shopping middle in Tennessee. But like lots of malls, it’s been in a downward dying spiral for extra than a 10 years.

Now the mammoth complex surrounded by acres of parking is on monitor to be part of the ranks of malls generating a transition into a booming economic sector: drugs. Vanderbilt University Healthcare Heart has had these good results reviving a unique shopping mall that its wellness program, Vanderbilt Overall health, strategies to insert health care clinics at the previous Hickory Hollow Shopping mall, rebranded a 10 years ago as the World Mall at the Crossings.

“The opportunities for company offerings in a facility of this scale are unlimited,” Dr. Jeff Balser, the health-related center’s CEO, introduced in March. What significant-town well being techniques need to have most is a little something shopping malls have a great deal of: house and parking. They supply comfort for individuals and practitioners, as well as costing fewer than expanding an current clinic campus.

Nationwide, 32 enclosed malls property health treatment solutions in at least element of their footprint, according to a database saved by Ellen Dunham-Jones, a Georgia Tech city style professor. 1 of the very first was Jackson Health care Shopping mall in Mississippi, founded by Dr. Aaron Shirley in 1996. Practically a third of those people health-related transformations have been introduced considering that the commence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The a lot more new additions include things like the Money Hill Mall in Helena, Montana, exactly where Benefis Overall health Procedure is constructing a 60,000-square-foot most important care and specialty clinic on portion of the 13-acre web-site that was razed in 2019. In Alexandria, Virginia, Inova Health Technique is component of a billion-greenback mixed-use improvement on the Landmark Mall website, which includes options for a total-company hospital and trauma center.

The lockdowns brought by COVID-19 — each needed and voluntary — pushed several bricks-and-mortar suppliers now on the brink out of enterprise. But medicine’s reuse of retail place is much more than pandemic opportunism, according to a November article in the Harvard Enterprise Review. The a few authors advise the rise of telemedicine and continued press towards outpatient treatments will make malls progressively attractive destinations for overall health care.

The proposition makes feeling for commercial real estate buyers, too, specially as shopping mall owners wrestle. A couple of went bankrupt for the duration of the pandemic. Every single mall operator is now hunting for blended-use options, stated Ginger Davis of Trademark Qualities in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2017, her organization begun redeveloping the Citadel Shopping mall, whose anchor tenant is now the Medical University of South Carolina. The clinics and surgical procedure centers are housed in the outdated J.C. Penney department retailer.

“Right now they’re performing medical procedures where individuals utilized to purchase sheets and towels,” Davis explained.

In lots of situations, the changeover to drugs is intended to enhance what stays of the retail. At Citadel Mall, a spouse with a associate possessing outpatient surgery ought to stay on-web site. But browsing Goal, Davis reported, nonetheless counts as on-site.

“We sense like this model can do the job in communities throughout the nation that are battling with equivalent malls that are underperforming,” she said.

Due to the fact 2009, Vanderbilt Health has additional 22 specialty clinics to practically a half-million square feet of One Hundred Oaks, a mall even now owned by buyers. The mall retains significant-box stores on the floor flooring, but the mall interior is now nearly all health-related.

In some of these promotions, these kinds of as people for Alexandria’s Landmark and Nashville’s Hickory Hollow malls, the neighborhood governing administration has acquired the shopping mall house that the healthcare facility procedure leases, so these portions no lengthier generate home taxes.

Some failing malls like Hickory Hollow in Nashville are in numerous neighborhoods that will need enhanced accessibility to well being solutions. The surrounding ZIP codes experienced Nashville’s highest fees of COVID-19 bacterial infections early in the pandemic and they have some of the lowest premiums of most important treatment visits, in accordance to survey details from the nonprofit NashvilleHealth.

Shopping mall spots continue being attractive. Lots of are even extra handy to dense populations and interstates than when they ended up built approximately 50 years ago, ahead of bordering suburbs loaded in.

When retiree Jennifer Johnson moved to Nashville to be closer to her grandchild, her family members warned her not to see a medical doctor at Vanderbilt’s major campus, which is less than perpetual building. She quickly recognized why.

“It’s a zoo,” she explained. “First you get to drive via the maze of the parking garage, which is less than building. Then you try out to discover out which elevator you are likely to get to, get to what floor you are going to get to.”

At 1 Hundred Oaks, she explained, “you can go straight up the escalator and straight down the corridor — effortless peasy.”

Even with the dimension and age of numerous malls, they are quite straightforward to navigate compared with quite a few hospitals. In Charleston, the Citadel Mall utilizes soccer-model yardage marked on the ground to aid people find the ideal clinic (a element that its operator insisted on and dubbed the “secret sauce”).

By distinction, quite a few clinic campuses confound clients. Vanderbilt’s key web-site in the West Stop location of Nashville has been expanded two dozen instances given that the initial setting up was produced in 1925.

“Most of these hospitals are in areas the place there’s just no space to grow. And if you do, it is so high-priced,” mentioned Andrew McDonald, a former medical center administrator who leads wellness treatment consulting for accounting and consulting firm LBMC. “These buildings are old. They’re antiquated. They are pretty highly-priced to preserve.”

Malls make for a pleasant in shape, at the very least for large health and fitness devices, McDonald explained. They can effectively shift all the things small of the crisis home and intensive treatment unit — which include surgical procedure and imaging facilities — and retain them clustered. When health practitioner workplaces are frequently scattered around a hospital district, in a shopping mall location, if someone desires an MRI, it’s correct past the meals courtroom less than the same sprawling roof.

“It just creates a total lot additional effective movement for the patient going as a result of the well being care method with regardless of what infirmity they may perhaps have,” McDonald said.

Vanderbilt’s renovation of the former Hickory Hollow Mall will also generate an work pipeline for healthcare professionals from Nashville State Group University, which already has a spot in what was earlier a Dillard’s section retail outlet.

The shopping mall has been primarily vacant for several years, which would make no feeling to close by resident Ricky Grigsby. The region around it is normally booming.

“Somebody wants to do a little something with it,” he stated. “It could be positions for somebody.”

Grigsby just retired from Vanderbilt right after a career expended running surgical instruments for fast paced functioning rooms on the primary campus. Now he’s a affected person alongside with everybody else — searching for a far more hassle-free put to obtain treatment.

Bundling care in suburban procuring shopping mall sites also would make feeling because of their bordering demographics, Dunham-Jones claimed. These regions are no for a longer period loaded mainly with young people, who initially flocked to the planned neighborhoods and buying facilities developed in the 1970s.

“The older people are continue to in the suburbs, but the young children have very long given that grown,” Dunham-Jones reported. And now those people getting old mom and dad who continue to be are “pretty large-responsibility health and fitness care buyers.”

This story is from a partnership that involves Nashville Community Radio and KHN.


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