The Avenue is a destination mall in Murfreesboro. (File Photo)
After torrential flooding forced Opry Mills to close in May 2010, shoppers flocked to outlying areas like The Avenue Murfreesboro and Lebanon Premium Outlets.
While the grand reopening of the Briley Parkway shopping center is slated for early next year, it shouldn’t have much of an effect on sales tax revenue for Rutherford County.
In a Murfreesboro Post story last November, County Mayor Ernest Burgess reported a 6 percent year-over-year increase in sales tax revenue from July to October, and data from the county’s department of budget and finance shows a continuing trend.
Total sales tax collected from July to October rose 5.09 percent from 2010 to 2011, which translates to some $1.4 million.
That money primarily funds the local education system – half of it is earmarked for education and education debt from capital projects, Burgess said. Murfreesboro alone experienced a significant increase in sales tax revenue over the past several months.
In July, it grew 4.02 percent, followed by 12.3 percent in August, 10.1 percent in September and 11.38 percent in October, when compared to the same times last year.
Shoppers tend to visit retail centers that are relatively close to home, and patrons of The Avenue Murfreesboro are no different.
A recent canvass of holiday shoppers at the outdoor retail center on Medical Center Parkway yielded a variety of nearby hometowns.
Of 13 shoppers, six were from Murfreesboro, and the rest spanned from Belvedere and Winchester to Brentwood and Lebanon.
“I think we must be getting visitors from any number of small adjacent counties,” Burgess said in an interview last week. “Once people visit and start to use your stores and shops, I think they’ll continue (to do so).”
He pointed to the number of visitors brought to Murfreesboro and Rutherford County because of conferences and seminars held at Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center.
“Any number of them are coming back for repeat (events) … that probably adds to what’s happening with our sales tax,” Burgess continued. “And they’ll probably come back again once they’ve become familiar with what we’ve got to offer here.”
Nevin Batiwalla recently reported in The Nashville Business Journal that “other Nashville-area retail centers shouldn’t be sweating the return of Opry Mills.”
“While one might expect the grand reopening of Opry Mills in March to draw customers away from area shopping centers, that won’t be the case, real estate professionals say,” Batiwalla wrote, adding the shopping center draws visitors from a much wider geographic area.
“It will have a negligible impact on other Nashville retail centers, because so much of Opry Mills was based on out-of-town shopping,” said David Baker, a principal with Nashville real estate firm Baker Storey McDonald Properties, in the article. “It’s one of the top tourist draws in the state. I don’t think the person who shops at Opry Mills is going to go to Cool Springs or RiverGate.”
Rutherford County is well positioned, Rutherford County’s mayor says.
“We’re ahead of where we were in 2008,” Burgess said. “Last year, we recovered to that level, and this year we are continuing to increase. We’re collecting more than we did prior to this economic downturn.”
He pointed out that this increase is being reflected throughout the state of Tennessee.
Sales tax revenue grew 6.38 percent from 2009 to 2010 and 6.17 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Before the May 2010 flood, the 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center raked in more than $279 million in revenue, according to published reports, The Nashville Business Journal Reported. The reopened mall is estimated to employ 3,000 people and generate $26 million per year in sales tax revenue.