If you thought the Mall of America was gigantic now, just wait a couple of years. Plans are in the works to make it even bigger but does that mean better? The mall is planning a huge expansion project that would cost $1.5 billion dollars. It would add hundreds of stores, theaters, hotels, office towers and maybe even an ice rink and a water park.
The state Legislature paved the way for the project by approving 250 million dollars in tax breaks to help pay for the expansion. No word on when construction could start. In the meantime, FOX 9 spoke with Dave Brennan, Co-Director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of Saint Thomas.
Randy Meier: "Dave, 20 plus years ago a lot of people thought the mall that size would not be sustainable or viable. Can something that massive double in size and continue to be successful or could it turn people off, in other words is there a risk in messing with a good thing?"
Dave Brennan: "Well I think for some people the current Mall of America is already too big. But for younger people and people that are coming from a greater distance, their looking at it as a destination where they're going to spend a lot of time with a wide variety of different kinds of shops and entertainment and other kinds of venues."
Randy Meier: "It's really become a tourist destination do you think the owners of the Mall Dave maybe think it's a matter of growth and improve and become irrelevant to a certain degree, as a tourist attraction? You need a facelift in other words sometimes to keep people interested."
Dave Brennan: "Well, I think it's a combination of things. Retailing and entertainment are evolving all the time and so they need to keep up with what's happening in the real world instead of basically relying on what they currently have."
Randy Meier: "Only Disney World in Orlando has more visitors per year than the Mall of America 45 million vs. the Mall's 40 million people. Officials say this expansion could bring in an extra 20 million people is that and this is a question that I think the State of Minnesota and those in Bloomington will be asking; Is that area prepared to handle this kind of traffic when you have that kind of influx? What's your thought on that?"
Dave Brennan: "Well I think if you look at it now 40 million if you add fifty percent more, another 20 million that is going to add to the congestion and there may well have to be some modifications but some of the new events particularly the office building ad in terms of the two hotels that are proposed those folks won't be driving around as much they'll be using/staying at the Mall so to speak."
Randy Meier: "This idea of adding big box stores on the North side of the mall.. Does that seem like a recipe for success Dave or does that seem like a bit of a gamble for the mall and those stores? Some big box stores as you know haven't had all that much success in recent years and Best Buy comes to mind when I say that."
Dave Brennan: "I think that's probably one of the most questionable parts of the proposed expansion. I don't know that big box stores, unless they're really unique would make it. I think Bass Pro has been suggested in the past and something like that may well work. But if we're talking about a Target a Best Buy I don't think really think that those type of stores really fit for the Mall of America even in the expanded version."
Randy Meier: "Alright Dave I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit because we haven't broached the specific question: Do you think it's a good idea this major expansion? So, I'm going to throw that at you. What do you think?"
Dave Brennan: "I think it is a good opportunity not only for the Mall but from an economic development standpoint for the Twin Cities and for the, certainly for Bloomington. So I look at this very positively."