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Officials Break Ground On Mall Of America Expansion Project

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — Twin Cities leaders are breaking ground Tuesday on a project that will nearly double the size of Mall of America.

MOA officials said when the project is done, you can expect a multi-level complex that will connect to the existing mall on all four levels. The expansion will include a 14-story, 342-room JW Mariott hotel, office tower, retail space and more. It is expected to attract additional customers looking for a more upscale feel.

The city of Bloomington and investors celebrated the more than $2-billion expansion with an official groundbreaking Tuesday. Construction has already begun on the north side of the mall.

Gallery: MOA Expansion

“It’s all about adding something new. Every week for 21 years at this mall, we’ve added something new,” said Maureen Bausch, the executive vice president of the Mall of America. “You have to add something new so people will come back.”

Officials said the Mall of America has 40 million visitors annually, which includes 17 million tourists. That’s more than all other attractions in the state combined, and officials said it should bring 20 million more people a year. That would double state economic impacts to $4.3 billion a year.

Paul Ghermezian is the second generation of the Canadian family to own and develop the mall. He said the new upscale food court that’s planned will really be an attraction.

“We have added a wonderful new food experience,” he said. “It will feel like you are in a modern restaurant with wonderful options with someone making noodles right in front of you.”

This is, by far, the largest expansion of the mall since it opened 22 years ago. Bausch started at the mall in 1990 — two years before the opening, when success was far from clear.

“Quite frankly, we were all a little scared, except for the Ghermezians — they knew it would work,” she said.

From the start, Minnesota’s lack of sales tax on clothing and a unique blend of retail have continued to attract shoppers like Cameron Hiding, of Excelsior.

“I love Coffee Bean,” she said. “It’s a California chain and this is the only place in Minnesota that they have it.”

The names of the new retailers have not been released, as negotiations with many of them are ongoing. But two areas will get a new emphasis, Bausch said.

“There is not enough for men in this market so there is an opening for that and home furnishings,” she said.

The expansion project should be completed by August of 2015. There is no specific timeline on when the next phase will begin — an even bigger expansion that will build on the parking lot that is currently across the street from the mall. Bausch said the project will bring 1,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs to the Mall of America.

With parking already very difficult at the mall, shoppers can expect 8,000 more spaces with expansion.

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