Medical facilities bring new life to struggling malls


Malls aren’t just hubs where consumers can check off holiday shopping lists. They’re 
also destinations for patients seeking convenient healthcare.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Medical University of South Carolina Health have expanded operations outside traditional care settings and into nearby malls. Rather than constructing new facilities from the ground up, repurposing vacant space at shopping malls can be quicker and cheaper for providers and often makes care more accessible for patients.

Janice Smith, a registered nurse and vice president of adult ambulatory operations at VUMC, describes herself as a “risk-taker.” When health system leaders asked if she’d help convert the second floor of a local mall into clinics, she welcomed the challenge.

Nashville, Tennessee-based VUMC transformed 450,000 square feet of empty mall space in the city, formerly home to Reebok, JCPenney and a menswear store, into a women’s clinic, dermatology clinic and comprehensive spine clinic—to name a few of the specialty sites under the mall’s roof—starting in 2009.

VUMC signed a letter of intent in March to negotiate a lease agreement for 600,000 square feet in another mall just outside of Nashville and is working through terms of the lease.

“I think that speaks to the success we experienced with our first foray,” Smith said.

Embarking on the mall-to-medicine transition makes sense considering the ample parking, multiple points of entry, and easy access from interstates, leaders said.

“There were a lot of big wins for us, and it checked a lot of boxes from a care delivery standpoint,” said Tom Crawford, chief operating officer at Charleston-based MUSC Health.

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