NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The sprawling Opry Mills Mall surrounded by water is an enduring image of the May flood. A lingering question about when it may reopen remains.
On Tuesday, the owners of the flood-damaged shopping complex filed a lawsuit in Nashville Chancery Court against its flood insurers for not paying nearly $150 million they say is covered in their policies.
Without the money, Gregg Goodman, president of The Mill, whose parent company Simon Property Group has a 50% stake in ownership of the mall, said it is "indefinite" when the mall might reopen.
"We were working toward a reopening of August of 2011, but without receiving the funds from the insurance companies, we are unable to make that date," Goodman told News 2 Wednesday.
The lawsuit, according to Goodman, is necessary to keep $200 million in repair work going.
"We are near the end of our initial $50 million investment in flood repair," The Mills president said.
Otherwise, he paints a bleak picture.
"Our tenant spaces will continue to be dark and employees due to return will remain without work," Goodman continued. "Opry Mills cannot return its work until insurers pay what they owe."
Many shoppers who spoke with News 2 Wednesday said they miss the mall, located conveniently off Briley Parkway, and worry where they'll go during the busy holiday season that is fast approaching.
"I wonder what we were going to do for Christmas, that's where we would shop for Christmas ever since it was open," said one shopper.
Another aspect of Opry Mills staying closed is the estimated 3,000 full and part time employees who have been out of work since May.
The city is also losing out on millions in sales tax revenue as shoppers are forced to travel to Brentwood or Rivergate, among other locations.
The mall not reopening concerns Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
"The situation between Opry Mills and its insurers is a private party matter but as the mayor of Nashville, I clearly want to see businesses recover, I clearly want to see businesses reopen so I'm hoping they can resolve whatever their differences are very quickly," he said.
"I would definitely encourage the parties to think of the larger good as they're handling this lawsuit," he continued. "I'm sure Opry Mills would like to get this thing resolved and get their businesses reopen and that's what I would like to see happen."
The mall's neighbors, the Opryland Resort and Convention Center and Grand Ole Opry House, were also flooded in early May.