EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — It was the nation’s first shopping mall, and when Southdale in Edina opened in 1956 it was big national news. But Southdale has struggled under stiff competition from the Mall of America.

Things got so tough that earlier this year the Edina City Council voted to give Southdale a nine-year $5.1 million interest-free loan.

On Thursday, the mall announced plans for a major renovation and five new tenants that they say will lead to a rebirth of the historic mall.

Some have said the five new retailers announced, while popular, are not game changers. But the mall’s owners — Simon Properties of Indiana — insist it’s just the beginning.

Visitors to Southdale on Thursday wouldn’t argue against the notion that the mall has seen better days. The Kelly family of Stillwater, for instance, was stunned to find only two food options in the food court, neither of which worked for 4-year-old Isabella.

Patrick Kelly grew up nearby and was stunned by the empty storefronts.

“Coming up here expecting a lot more, it’s kind of depressing seeing it,” he said.

He and his wife usually shop elsewhere. Competition from the Mall of America in Bloomington and the upscale Galleria next door have left Southdale struggling, but Southdale has high hopes from an influx of new tenants.

The new tenants are specialty clothing stores Lucky Jeans, Madewell, Soma Intimates, White Huuse/Black Market and cosmetics specialist Sephora.

But that’s not all. Laurie Van Dalen, a manager at Southdale, said “we have we have a lot of leases that are in negotiation right now. Probably a dozen more we are excited to talk about … in the near future.”

The third-level food court will be replaced with all-new version at street level, and updated tile and wood will give the old mall a new look.

“The new Southdale will win customers back and help the area,” said Edina Mayor Jim Hovland. “As goes Southdale so goes the neighborhood. For us, that is a truism. We really believe that to be so and we have been told that repeatedly.”

But Southdale has not only struggled because of competition. Traditional malls across the country have been losing ground to open-air malls like the shops at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove and strip malls. Southdale is betting the renovation can reverse the trend.


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