Tom Webb, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 18 2014
Mall of America has big expansion plans
The expansion will add a new Food Hall, underground valet parking and another 50 to 75 retailers, mostly aimed at upscale shoppers.
It will also add a second atrium – “bigger than the one we’re standing in today,” said Kurt Hagen, senior vice president of mall owner Triple Five Worldwide, at Tuesday’s groundbreaking, which was moved indoors because of weather.
The expansion also will add a 342-room luxury JW Marriott Hotel and a seven-story office building designed to attract distinctive high-profile tenants.
On an even grander scale, the expansion kicks off a 10-year plan to nearly double the size of the mega-mall, eventually pushing it to the north, filling up the old Met Sports Center space, now a vast parking area.
“As far as what’s to come, we have big plans – we always have,” said Paul Ghermezian, whose family corporation owns the Bloomington mega-mall.
Mall of America already attracts some 42 million visitors a year, ranking it among the nation’s most popular attractions. Eventually, mall officials hope to bring 60 million visitors a year to the expanded mall, and shift the balance so that tourists outnumber locals.
While the distant future – a world-class indoor waterpark, more department stores, an indoor skating rink – are still years away, the expansion launched Tuesday paves the way for those later additions, officials said.
This expansion, along with futures ones, is partly financed by a $250 million tax break that Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton approved last year.
The $325 million addition kicked off Tuesday has several parts, with slightly different timetables.
“The retail will open in August 2015,” Hagen said. “The hotel will be about two months after that, and the office will probably open two months after that. So it’s kind of sequenced. Obviously, retail will be first, but it’ll all be open by the end of 2015.”
Those new elements include:
• FOOD HALL: A third-floor Food Hall will replace the existing north food court. The current food court will remain in place until the summer of 2015, but then it will be removed and the food offerings upgraded.
• STORES: The expanded retail area will have room for 50 to 75 new tenants, MOA Vice President Maureen Bausch said. MOA isn’t saying which retailers are coming because leases haven’t been signed.
• HOTEL: The 14-story, 342-room JW Marriott hotel will rise on the mall’s northeast side; it will be owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. This would marks the debut in this market of Marriott’s luxury brand.
• OFFICE TOWER: A 10-story building will also rise on the mall’s north side, west of the hotel, with the upper seven floors dedicated to offices.
• TOURISM CENTER: The mall’s second floor will also include a new International Tourism Center, designed to give the mall’s millions of foreign visitors an easier entry to the mall, with services like taxis and tours offered nearby.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.