Hockey Stars and the Mega Mall
Written by Johnny Reimann, Vice President - Tenant Representation
It was 1992 and pre-obituaries were being written about the new Mall of America (MOA) opening late summer that year. The Ghermezian family's project was too ambitious they said – a mega mall of almost 4 million square feet in Bloomington, Minnesota?
Meanwhile, Minnesota North Stars (Minnesota’s NHL hockey team before the Wild) owner Norm Green was preparing to relocate the team. Urban legends abound as to why Green moved the team from hockey-rich Minnesota to Dallas. Green was a Canadian shopping center developer, and my favorite rumor is that he didn’t get approval to connect Met Center with the fledgling MOA, which he coveted in order to further develop around both properties. When Norm didn’t get what he wanted, he shipped the team down I-35 to the Lone Star State. Some North Star fans still haven’t forgiven him.
Almost 25 years later, the Stars, still in Dallas, won a Stanley Cup and the mall is one of the most iconic shopping destinations in the country. Space was delivered late last year for a 750,000 square foot "phase II" near the ground in north lot where Mike Modano used to light the lamp at Met Center. The expansion includes an office tower, JW Marriott hotel and 130,000 square feet of retail and food over three levels. The Ghermezians hope to partially fill the new space with luxury/aspirational tenants, though the north side expansion sits mostly vacant for now. Luxury retail in the Twin Cities has generally not fared well. MOA lost Bloomingdale's in 2012 and Saks Fifth Avenue couldn't last downtown. Minneapolis-St. Paul is an affluent market compared to the average, but a conservative base whose people generally don’t flaunt their wealth.
I believe tourism will have to sustain any new luxury retail at MOA. Of the 40 million + annual visitors, 40% are tourists. MOA offers travel packages from 36 countries on five continents to lure shoppers from Europe and Asia to the mall (and then right back to the airport). Admittedly, I rarely dealt with the grind of shopping MOA before I had kids. Now I'm there once a quarter at minimum for SeaLife Aquarium and Nickelodean Universe (options for young kids to burn off steam when it’s -6 degrees Fahrenheit are worth their weight in gold). MOA has many things to offer a spectrum of people beyond just shopping.
In closing, the Dallas Stars are the best team in the Western Conference this season and Mall of America is as impressive as ever.
Rendering of Mall of America
Vice President – Tenant Representation
Mid-America Real Estate – Minnesota, LLC
5353 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 650 | Minneapolis, MN 55416
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