Monday night is looking to be interesting here in Antioch as a group of local neighborhood associations gather for a town meeting on the proposed WIC Center in Hickory Hollow Mall. There seems to be some discontent on the part of local residents about the proposal, especially since at least one local councilperson was quoted in the media as opposing the proposal and then seemingly backtracked a bit after a powwow between the mayor’s office, the health department, and the other six Antioch area councilpersons. According to organizers, they are expecting some 200 persons to show up to speak on the proposal. What makes everything more interesting is that the proposal is up for third reading on Tuesday night, meaning that there is no opportunity for a public hearing or for the public to express their opposition.
It’s a complicated situation. CBL Properties, the owner of the mall, is desperate to find tenants and is offering amazing deals to organizations considering renting space. Many point to the revitalization of 100 Oaks as a model for Hickory Hollow, but currently there has been no savior to come forward with a master plan like Vanderbilt did for 100 Oaks. Nashville State Community College (what we used to call in the ‘70’s “The University of White Bridge Rd.”) is considering a move to Hickory Hollow but nothing is firm. There are rumors of a new community center and a satellite of the Matthew Walker Health Clinic which makes the WIC center a bit more logically located, but again nothing has been announced and in a time when funding seems non-existent it isn’t clear where the money would come from to make those things happen.
From a community standpoint we have the age-old struggle between a private land owner who wants to develop and use their property as they see fit (CBL) and neighbors who feel like they ought to have a say in what happens next to their house. CBL wants to fill their empty space, and will rent to anyone who is willing to pay. The Health Department recognizes a large population of WIC clients in the area and wants to serve the community by providing a clinic convenient to the clientele. The neighbors, on the other hand, want Hickory Hollow to return to its past glory, or at least if not its past glory, at least something more like 100 Oaks.
From my perspective, I would like to see the legislation deferred to give time for community input. I don’t know whether the center should be located in the mall. If it is part of a larger community based health center and a community center, then there is some logic to having the WIC center in the mall. However as a standalone operation it feels like the mall isn’t the right space. What I would like to see is a master plan that identifies a community services section of the mall – one wing around which local services such as healthcare, tutoring, etc. can be located.
Like I said, it should be an interesting night this Monday.