The Mall of America is about to get bigger, again.
TripleFive Group of Cos. and Ryan Cos. submitted plans to the city of Bloomington for the mall’s next expansion phase, which will add more than 1 million square feet and be connected by a multistory bridge across Lindau Lane.
The move aims to keep the megamall’s consumers engaged by offering new destinations while also giving high-end retailers a chance to influence physical design.
If approved, construction on the $500 million project would begin as early as April with a grand opening scheduled for the fall of 2018.
The plans, which became available Thursday, come just as the mall’s “front door” project — which includes an office tower, hotel and more specialized retail space — is wrapping up construction.
There have been no major tenant announcements made yet for that $325-million project, which was originally scheduled to open in August but is instead opening in waves over the next several months.
The mall’s Canada-based owners, Triple Five Group, are showing confidence in the market by pushing forward with this next phase, called the Collections at MOA, which targets luxury shoppers by creating a “new and vibrant high-end shopping district at MOA,” according to documents submitted to the city.
The über-posh shops will populate all three retail floors, including over the pedestrian bridge. Renderings show sunlight drenching the common corridors through two glass domes, giving the feel of being outdoors even through Minnesota’s harsh winters.
The addition will include 580,000 square feet of new retail and mall space, a 180-room luxury hotel, nearly 170,000 square feet of top-tier office space and possibly a health club. And if dining, shopping and recreation isn’t enough, people will be able to live at the mall. Plans call for 120 residences to be built atop the hotel.
Then there’s the mall’s third giant parking structure. The proposal calls for a 3,100-stall aboveground ramp and a two-level underground garage with more than 600 stalls.
The mall’s management has not made it clear how these two expansions — separated by Lindau Lane — will differ in terms of its targeted audience, but they said high-end luxury retailers, which tend to be pickier about their location, have expressed interest in joining the next phase.
“These brands are also very discerning, and want to make certain entry into this market properly reflects their brands,” said Dan Jasper, a mall spokesman. “This unique opportunity allows us to work hand in hand with these retail partners to design the ideal location.”
Jill Renslow, the mall’s vice president of business development, suggested at a retail conference in June that it might expedite the timeline for this next expansion after some high-end brands said they wanted to influence design of the new space. She compared the mall’s growth to Walt Disney World, saying, “If Disney stopped at Magic Kingdom, where would we all be at today?”
By adding new features, the Mall of America — with its 40 million annual visitors — is reinforcing its position in an ever-evolving and competitive megamall sector.
Once known as the nation’s largest mall, it now has a handful of rivals in the United States and is dwarfed by other giant malls in Asia and the Middle East. Instead, its managers now tout the mall as the most-visited in the country.
“Certainly, what this does is solidify their position,” said Dave Brennan, professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas. “The malls that are making it today are the ones reinventing themselves and probably moving more toward upscale.”
The big question remains whether there will be enough shoppers to support such high-end retail. Several major luxury retailers have come and gone in the Twin Cities, including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. “If you rely on the local market, that’s not so good,” Brennan said.
But, he added, having a designated — and somewhat separate — luxury zone can be a successful model. “It makes sense for them to have it in a much more well-defined area that is upscale,” Brennan said.
The original mall structure opened in 1992 with about 4.2 million square feet. The Radisson Blu on the south side added 372,000 square feet in 2013 and the front door expansion now underway on the north side is adding 748,000 square feet.
In 2006, the TripleFive Group unveiled an overarching plan for the land north of Lindau Lane, adjacent to Ikea, but later decided it would be more feasible to expand in two smaller steps.
This new proposal represents the first step.
The second, for which no construction date has been set, would be an even larger addition at around 2 million square feet. It would include yet more retail space, another hotel and an entertainment venue.
TripleFive is the master developer, leading the charge on all the retail space, while Minneapolis-based Ryan is under contract as a co-developer and general contractor. Ownership of the nonretail components is yet to be determined.
This marks Ryan’s first role in any Mall of America expansion phase.
Staff writer Kavita Kumar contributed to this report.