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Mall of America's $325 million addition set to open in stages

The much-anticipated $325 million addition to Mall of America is slated to begin its multi-phase reveal in August with a brand new food court.
When the Mall of America unveils the first phase of its new 163,000-square-foot wing in just a few short weeks, shoppers will be treated to a new food court. The third-level food court has been christened "Culinary on North" and will feature an array of eateries, ranging from fast food chains to larger sit-down restaurants. As of yet, Mall of America has not announced a full list of restaurants. 

The second phase of Mall of America's renovations will be revealed in November. Mall officials have reported that shoppers will be granted access to the first and second levels via the new "front door" of the mall, which opens into a spacious 6,000-square-foot atrium. In addition to this big reveal, a 342-room Marriott hotel attached to the new wing will also open for business, making Mall of America an even more enticing getaway destination for shoppers and tourists. 

Currently, the mall is still courting potential retailers to join the more than 500 shops Mall of America already boasts. Jill Renslow, senior vice president of business development and marketing, is "thrilled" with how negotiations are going with retailers. 

Mall of America new logo

"It's a really unique opportunity for a retail center to have this much square footage of contiguous space where we can place new retailers. It's given us a chance to step back and make sure we put the right mix of retail in place." 

She is referring, of course, to the plans Mall of America has to create a "luxury wing" with the new addition. Mall executives are aiming for high-end shops to fill the new spaces and attract new tourists. Luxury brands are slow to choose new locations, however, so the mall is having to court each brand more slowly than they would like. 

Renslow offers this explanation for the selectiveness of luxury retailers: "They do a lot of research in the marketplace to make sure it’s a good fit. It takes time. And they like to go in clusters. They won’t do a one-off.”

In other words, Renslow says, a brand like Gucci will not want to be put in the midst of Old Navy-tier brands. It wants to be next to a Prada and Louis Vuitton. This means the mall has to try to coordinate simultaneously between multiple brands. Additionally, each brand may have a different timetable for expansion that mall officials will have to work around. Luxury retailers are also very involved and detail-oriented in the overall design of their storefronts, which can slow negotiations and construction. 

Deb Carlson, former president of the Minnesota Shopping Center Association, shed a bit of light on the dance MoA executives have to do with luxury brands. In her experience, luxury retailers prefer to cluster together in upscale shopping districts. "This is a little bit out of the box for them," she says of potentially moving into a large shopping mall. "They like more boutique-y space rather than being part of a big mall." 

Mall of America executives are also hoping to bring in brand new shops for untapped areas of the market, such as furniture, beauty, and men's apparel. However, NAI Everest President Gina Dingman predicts that if these new retailers are not in place by September, many will wait until after the holiday shopping season has passed before they open up a storefront in Mall of America's new addition. 

Neither Carlson nor Dingman is concerned, though. Carlson says the mall could take up to a year to fill out the empty storefronts and not see any negative impact. Both women understand that the immense popularity of the Mall of America will not be diminished if the new addition does not open up completely full. "I don't think it's losing any of the appeal of a destination location," said Dingman. 

She is correct in her assessment. Mall of America is consistently ranked as an extremely popular shopping venue. This beast of a shopping mall attracts well over 42 million visitors each year, and rakes in more than a billion dollars in sales every fiscal year. The mall stays on top of trends and keeps itself relevant in the public's eye with new shops and attractions. Its most recent acquisition is the 60,000-square-foot Crayola Experience, slated to open on the former third level of Bloomingdale's next summer. Crayola official Victoria Lozano expressed surprise and pleasure at the fact that the mall owners continue to invest in keeping their property distinctive.

"This is a really powerful location and destination no matter what," she stated, "But the fact that they are expanding, the fact that they are continuing to renovate the property is always a good sign."

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