As opening day creeps closer, Eagan is preparing to be swarmed with thousands of vehicles and shoppers for the debut of the Twin Cities’ newest outlet center, and the mall’s operators are planning a job fair to hire 1,600 employees for its 100 stores.
The Twin Cities Premium Outlet Mall, which opens Aug. 14, will be the first major outlet mall to be located smack in the middle of the seven-county metro area. It’s a few miles south of the Mall of America in northern Eagan.
A new study for the city finds that parking for the store will be pinched on opening week but will be ample most of the time. For anybody planning to be in the area around opening day or other big shopping days, though, traffic congestion could be a problem.
“Think of this like the State Fair,” said Eagan Public Works Director Russ Matthys. “Whether you are coming to shop in Eagan or getting to and from your job in the Eagan area, for Aug. 14-17 folks need to plan ahead, leave early, and consider using alternate routes or mass transit.”
The job fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 6 at the Eagan Civic Arena.
The $100 million upscale outlet center is being developed by Paragon Outlet Partners just off Hwy. 77 at Diffley Avenue. The six-building, open-air complex of more than 400,000 square feet will include merchants such as American Eagle, Cole Hann, Calphalon, Adidas, Destination Maternity, J. Crew, Saks Off Fifth, Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren and Wilson’s Leather.
Because the mall is expected to be a popular attraction, the city is working with Simon Premium Outlets, the mall owner, to make the trip to Eagan and the mall as convenient as possible, said community development director Jon Hohenstein. “We are not naive,” Hohenstein said. “Grand openings attract lots of traffic. What we are glad about is that the message that it’s going to be attractive is out there.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation and transit officials are also working on signage and bus service to make it as easy as possible to reach the mall, Hohenstein said.
“We understand there are a lot of people who want to drive their car and want to come out with lots of bags,” but some will want to come by bus to avoid traffic, he said.
The mall will have about 800 surface parking spots on either end of the stores. The city is building a two-story parking garage next to the mall, offering another 1,500 spaces, Hohenstein said.
With those parking spots already planned, the city commissioned a traffic and parking study by SRF consultants to determine if preparations already underway would be adequate. SRF found that on typical days there would be no traffic or parking problems once planned improvements are made. On typical shopping days there will be a surplus of more than 1,000 parking spaces. But at peak times, including opening week and Black Friday, shoppers may find a deficit of about 475 stalls and local roads to the mall may be congested.
To solve the parking shortage, SFR recommended that employees park at a location removed from the mall and take a shuttle to work during opening days. The firm also recommended that the city promote the use of transit to the shopping center. The mall has a stop on the Cedar Avenue busway, which circulates between the Mall of America and Apple Valley along Cedar Avenue.
The City Council has given preliminary direction to begin the design of $35,000 in public improvements in the area around the mall, including “no parking” signs, directional signage, an extended sidewalk and a crosswalk, all to be finished this summer.
“The city is doing all it can to prepare for the opening of this grand new attraction to Eagan, and we are encouraging the mall owners to do all they can to create a great first impression on opening day,” said Eagan City Administrator Dave Osberg.