Shoppers who visit the Mall of America in Bloomington may be accustomed by now to the traffic jams on Lindau Lane and to the no man's land of traffic and surface parking that separates the mall from the nearby IKEA store.
All of that is about to change. Lindau Lane, the road that borders the mall on the north side, will run underneath the complex. The mall itself will spread toward IKEA, which eventually will have a skyway connection.
But a bigger megamall does not mean a less crowded one. If projections hold true, the current herd of 40 million shoppers will increase by as much as 50 percent. The mall is already biggest single tourism attraction in the state.
"Our goal in expanding Mall of America is to enhance the tourism draw for the state, because it's a huge export for our state and a very important economic driver here," said Maureen Bausch, the mall's executive vice president of business development. "I think one out of every nine jobs are related to tourism in this state."
(State tourism figures suggest 11 percent of the private workforce is employed in travel- and tourism-related work.)
"We'll be drawing anywhere between 10 million to 20 million more visits from tourists," Bausch told Daily Circuit co-host Tom Weber. "We also employ today 13,000 to 15,000 people in the mall, depending on the season. And we generate $3 billion-$4 billion in economic impact for the state every year."
The mall's economic impact, said Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead, justifies the diversion of tax revenue that otherwise would have gone into the state's fiscal disparities pool.
The Legislature's decision to make the funds available "made a lot of sense due to the great regional impact that the mall has," Winstead said. "You have to understand that Bloomington has been the very largest contributor into this pool for more than 40 years now." He said the money would be used for infrastructure and parking.
Weber asked Bausch whether the mall's chief competition came from other malls in the Twin Cities or from other megamalls around the world.
"Actually, both," she said. "And also other tourism destinations and attractions, like Disney or Universal. They are our competition for family vacation spending. Certainly, internationally we compete with other large cities for the shopping trip. And right now, actually for a pure shopping experience, we rate No. 1 in the country, and that's against some awfully big cities."
She alluded to another success at the Legislature this year, from the mall's perspective:
"People do enjoy coming here. No sales tax on clothing is a huge driver in that, particularly when it snows in May," she said.
The expansion project got a last-minute boost when the tax break passed the Minnesota Legislature.
The project is expected to make the mall twice as big. Plans also call for a water park, more stores and new hotels. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announced last week that it is considering investing in a new luxury hotel as part of the project.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MALL'S EXPANSION PLANS:
The Mall of America has released a gallery of images showing the expansion plans.