Mall of America prides itself on doing things differently, so with snow in the forecast on Tuesday, officials shoveled confetti in the Rotunda to signal the start of construction on a $325 million expansion that will include a JW Marriott luxury hotel, an event atrium larger than the existing Rotunda, an office building, more parking, a food hall, and space for 50 to 75 new retailers.
While the confetti flew indoors, crews were already digging in the actual dirt just north of MOA (near IKEA) in anticipation of an aggressive building schedule, with an August 2015 opening planned.
“From the very beginning, we had plans to expand Mall of America,” said Kurt Hagen, senior vice president of development for mall owner Triple 5 Worldwide. “The next big step forward begins with this groundbreaking today.”
Rendering of the 342-room JW Marriott at Mall of America
The Marriott, with direct access to the mall, just like Radisson Blu on the south side, will include a full-service and bar, a lobby bar, fitness center, pool, grand ballroom, and meeting space. The new dining hall is intended to change everything you know about food courts, with a higher end marketplace feel, more discrete seating areas, and healthier options. The retail will focus on “mid-luxury to luxury,” says Maureen Bausch, the mall’s executive vice president of business development. On her wish list are more stores for men and home—two underserved areas, she says. Another department store would be part of a future phase \—the largest storefronts in this expansion will be about 25,000 square feet.
New food hall, part of Mall of America's north side expansion
For years, the mall has used the figure of 42 million visits per year—nearly 40 percent tourists. The expansion could add another 20 million annual visits, said Katie Clark Sieben, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner. Much of that, added Bausch, would be event and tourism driven.
When it opened in 1992, MOA created a new blueprint for shopping as entertainment. That is even more apparent today, with the new Exhibit Center featuring a revolving roster of interactive experiences (Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience and CSI: The Experience are now open with Star Trek on the way in May). The 400 Bar is building a music venue at the mall that will be able to hold 1,000, and Hard Rock Café is opening a 400-seat restaurant at the mall. Meanwhile, a swathe of retail space remains vacant beneath the Exhibit Center, on the first and second floors of the southeast court, where Bloomingdale’s used to be.