NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — One of Nashville’s oldest shopping areas has seen massive structural changes over its lifetime. From an initial 750,000-square-foot shopping center, remnants of the original construction remain, but 100 Oaks is barely recognizable from when it was initially constructed in the 1960s.

The original tenants of the then-new, enclosed shopping center were JCPenney and two now-defunct clothing stores, WoolCo and Harveys.

One Hundred Oaks Shopping Center, Nashville’s first enclosed mall, was under construction when this sign advertised space for lease. Harveys, Penneys and Woolco department stores were already under contract. Circa 1967 (Courtesy of Metro Nashville Archives)

One of Nashville’s first ever malls, 100 Oaks Shopping Center was opened in 1967, boasting multiple clothing and department stores, a dining area and all the accoutrement inside to attract shoppers from the Nashville area. The mall even added a large movie theater next door – Regal Cinemas Hollywood 27, which still operates today.

But the mall went through its ups and downs, first closing its doors in the early 1980s before reopening in the early ‘90s.

News 2 Senior Digital Producer Brittney Baird recalled working inside the food court in the newly-reopened mall.

“I was called over from the Hickory Hollow Sbarro to help with the opening of 100 Oaks,” she said. “It was just us and one other good place, so it was so busy. All I remember is the never-ending line of people and the robot cowboy singing.”

Baird also remembered visiting Michael’s for art supplies and “killing time at Media Play while waiting to go see a movie.”

“100 Oaks had a lot going on in the ‘90s! I hate to see ‘mall culture’ become a thing of the past. So much of mall life is part of my memories,” she added.

Ultimately, what plagued 100 Oaks as a longstanding mall was its lack of access from the interstate. Although located parallel to it, Interstate 65 had no immediate access ramps directly to the mall property for decades, only later adding the Power Avenue and Armory Drive exits that loop to the area.

Nowadays, though a few retail stores remain, the largest component of the shopping center location is the satellite campus for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which expanded its medical footprint to the site in the early 2000s.

100 Oaks Shopping Center
Inside 100 Oaks Shopping Center circa 1990s (WKRN file photo)

“We have over 20 clinics in there today, and we’re still building out space on one of the third floors,” said Janice Smith, VP Adult Ambulatory Operations at Vanderbilt.

The medical center leases out the top floor of what used to be the mall footprint. At that time, the mall was in a less-than-vital stage, with local Nashvillians avoiding the area due to a rise in crime.

“If you were in Nashville, or if you talked to others, it was one of those locations that…had fallen on hard times,” she told News 2. “There was a lot of empty space, and it didn’t really look like some place that you would want to go in initially. However, there was great potential, and the developers at the time working with us were able to give us the opportunity to create.”

100 Oaks Shopping Center
Outside100 Oaks Shopping Center circa 1990s (WKRN file photo)

And for going on two decades, Vanderbilt has continued to lease the space and add more for its needs.

“It has been a revolution just to watch that whole area,” Smith said. “I mean, if you look at where it was 15 years ago and where it is now, it would be hard to ignore.”

In addition to the ample space for clinics, Smith said the location of 100 Oaks truly worked in the university’s favor, as it was not too far away from Vanderbilt’s main campus on 21st Avenue.

“It really had all the components we were looking for at the time,” she said.

All the moving efforts were spearheaded by Dr. Wright Pinson, Smith said, calling him a “visionary” for the hospital.

“He saw [the location] as a great opportunity; he saw it as a great move,” she told News 2. “He really looked at that as our second campus.”

Smith herself had been to the retail stores still left in the area prior to the massive redevelopment, including T.J. Maxx and Michael’s.

One Hundred Oaks (WKRN photo)

Smith herself remembered older portions of the former mall that were changed prior to the 2000s redevelopment.

“I remember walking in, and it was painted in red and yellow,” she said. “It was very dated. They had tried different retail establishments; some would last for a period of time and then they would vacate. It really felt depressed when we were there.”

But not all memories of 100 Oaks are bittersweet – Smith recalled an old train store, which still has fingerprints on the property to this day.

“We worked with one of the local train enthusiast clubs, so today when you’re at 100 Oaks, there is a train display right outside one of our pediatric clinics. It’s a throwback to when it was the mall itself. The trains are still there—maybe in a little different configuration, but they are still there, and we worked with that local train organization to help us set that up and maintain it.”