MALL OF AMERICA
Killebrew Drive and 24th Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota


Canada's Triple Five Corporation / Ghermezian Brothers developed the gargantuan WEST EDMONTON MALL complex. In the mid-1980s, they set their sites on the creation of a United States counterpart. An 80.4 acre plot, located 7.9 miles south of downtown Minneapolis, was acquired.

The site had been occupied by Metropolitan Stadium ("The Met"). Completed in April 1956, it served as the home venue for the Minneapolis Millers (minor league baseball), Minnesota Twins (major league baseball), Minnesota Vikings (major league football) and Minnesota Kicks (professional league soccer). The Beatles also did a gig at The Met in August 1965. The stadium closed in December 1981 and was razed in January 1985.

News of a prospective, super-sized retail and entertainment facility, to be known as FASHION MALL OF AMERICA, surfaced in 1985. According to the Ghermezians, the Phase I complex was to encompass 5 million square feet and house between 400 and 800 stores and services.

FASHION MALL OF AMERICA would feature attractions such as a submarine ride, waterpark, salt water aquarium, 65-screen multiplex cinema, 5-star hotel and nearly 125 restaurants. These plans were eventually scaled back considerably.

Unlike WEST EDMONTON MALL, which had been developed in 3 phases, the entirety of FASHION MALL OF AMERICA would be built in just 1. To assist with the mammoth project, the Ghermezians enlisted the help of Indianapolis-based Melvin Simon & Associates (today's Simon Property Group) in 1987...a move they would live to regret.

With official approval for the mall project secured, concrete plans were drawn up. The firms of HGA/KKE, Maurice Sunderland Architecture and the Jon Jerde Partnership made contributions. Ground was broken June 14, 1989.

Local officials became alarmed when it was revealed that parts of the mall were being built as other sections were still being designed. Nonetheless, the project, now known as simply MALL OF AMERICA, progressed onward.

At first, Bloomingdale's, Carson Pirie Scott, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom were mentioned as potential anchors. Minneapolis-based Dayton's had opted out in November 1987. By June 1989, it was official, the 4 trip generator department stores at MALL OF AMERICA would be Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Sears.

An official mall-wide dedication was held on August 11, 1992. The 625 million dollar MALL OF AMERICA spanned a total of 4.2 million square feet, with its gross leasable area being 2,779,000 square feet. It contained 377 stores (out of an eventual 520). 

The gargantuan complex housed 2 Panda Express restaurants, 2 Cajun Cafe Grills, 2 Taco Time restaurants, 4 Sunglass Hut locations and 2 Sam Goody music stores.

In all, there were 100 food vendors, along 3 miles of corridors, as well as 2 multilevel parking garages. The maximum capacity of all lots was 13,000 automobiles. The mall, which had its own zip code, included a school and 18-hole mini golf course.

The original anchors were a 3-level (280,000 square foot) Macy's, 3-level (220,000 square foot) Nordstrom, 3-level (210,000 square foot) Bloomingdale's and 3-level (177,900 square foot) Sears.

MALL OF AMERICA was also comprised of 3 levels, with a partial 4th on top. The structure was divided into 5 specific zones;

*South Avenue. The mall's most upscale section included retailers such as Victoria's Secret, Ann Taylor and Casual Corner, along with the 14-bay South Food Court. The General Cinema Corporation Mall of America 14 showed its first features on August 14, 1992.

*West Market. The "young professionals" wing consisted of street vendors, bistros and stores such as Eddie Bauer, Helzberg Diamonds, Oshman's SuperSports USA, Filene's Basement and Things Remembered.

*North Garden. This meandering mallway along the north perimeter was the center's most middle-market section. It was populated by stores and services such as Ruby Tuesday, B. Dalton Bookseller and A Touch of Elegance. Moreover, the North Garden section included a second culinary complex, the 12-bay North Food Court.

*East Broadway. This Times Square-inspired set of concourses featured Marshalls, Service Merchandise, Fanny Farmer Candies, Foxmoor, Linens 'N Things and Hermitage Gallery. On Level Four was the Entertainment District, with a Player's Sports Bar and nightclubs such as America Live!, Ltl. Ditty's and Gator's.

*Knott's Camp Snoopy. This indoor theme park, encompassing 292,000 square feet, was situated in the center of the mall. It was loosely based on comic strip characters created by Charles M. Schultz. Within the facility were attractions such as the Pepsi Ripsaw Roller Coaster, Screaming Yellow Eagle, Mystery Mine Ride, Kite-Eating Tree and Brawny Paul Bunyon Log Chute.

In spite of a mild economic recession, MALL OF AMERICA was an astounding success. In its vicinity were malls such as SOUTHDALE CENTER (1956) {4.3 miles northwest, in Edina}, KNOLLWOOD MALL (1972) {8.7 miles northwest, in St. Louis Park}, RIDGEDALE CENTER (1974) {12 miles northwest, in Minnetonka} and EDEN PRAIRIE CENTER (1976) {8.6 miles west, in Eden Prairie}. These retail venues continued to appeal to the local populace, while MALL OF AMERICA would be frequented primarily by tourists.

Trouble began to brew in 1999, with a battle emerging between the Ghermezians and Simon Property Group; each vying for control of the mall. The issue was settled in favor of the Ghermezians in September 2003. They eventually spent over 1 billion dollars to establish 100 percent ownership of the property.

After several years of discussion, a light rail line was extended to MALL OF AMERICA, connecting it with the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and downtown Minneapolis. Revenue service was inaugurated on the Fort Snelling-to-Mall of America Hiawatha Line extension on December 4, 2004.

Negotiations over the licensing of "Peanuts" comic strip characters fell through in early 2006. On January 19, all references to the characters were hastily removed from the Camp Snoopy park. There would be no more Snoopy Boutique, Snoopy Bouncer or Peppermint Patty's Sweet Shop. Moreover, the name of the entire indoor amusement facility had to be changed to the generic Park At Mall Of America.

A franchising agreement was eventually worked out with the Nickelodeon cable TV network. Nickelodeon Universe, assuming the old Camp Snoopy / Park At Mall Of America facility, opened on March 15, 2008. Its main features were the SpongeBob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge, Splat-o-phere and Avatar Mindbender.

Over the years, various stores at MALL OF AMERICA came and went. Charter tenants such as Oshman's, Filene's Basement, Service Merchandise and Linens 'N Things closed between 1997 and 2003. These were replaced with Best Buy, DSW and the Metropolitan Learning Alliance. Nordstrom Rack opened, on Level One of the West Market section, in 1998.

The mall's 14-screen cinema has gone through 3 permutations. Originally a General Cinema Corporation operation, it functioned as an American Multi-Cinema venue between 2002 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2016, the complex was operated by MALL OF AMERICA management. The facility was shuttered in December 2016. It was totally renovated and re-opened, as a state-of-the-art Cinemex VIP dine-in theater, in October 2017. 

The original anchor line up at MALL OF AMERICA remained intact for over 19 years. The shuttering of Bloomingdale's, in March 2012, brought this to an end. The vacant structure was sectioned into smaller store and restaurant spaces. 65,000 square feet of an unfinished basement was also rebuilt as additional commercial area. 

Forever 21 moved from a 15,000 square foot store, to one encompassing 80,000 square feet, in December 2012. This took a small portion of Floor One of Bloomingdale's and much of the rebuilt basement. L.L. Bean leased the remainder of Floor One. Their (29,000 square foot) location opened for business in November 2014.  

The remainder of the old Bloomingdale's basement became an upscale restaurant. Floor Three was renovated into exhibit space, with the first presentation being "Barbie's Dream House". This was a temporary attraction. A permanent tenant, the (60,000 square foot) Crayola Experience, was dedicated in 2016.

Meanwhile, in March 2014, the first bona fide expansion of MALL OF AMERICA got underway. Known as Phase 1c, it would add a 342-room JW Marriott Hotel, 7-floor office tower and 163,000 square feet restaurant and retail space. 

Vendors in the new Culinary on North Food Court began opening in August 2015, with the new Marriott Hotel being dedicated in November. The expansion brought the GLA of MALL OF AMERICA up to 2,942,000 square feet.

Sources:

"Mall of America" article on Wikipedia
The Milwaukee Sentinel
The Ocala Star Banner

www.minn.post.com
The Minneapolis Star Tribune

www.mallofamerica.com
www.twincitiesnews.com
www.cinematreasures.org


FAIR USE OF KNOTT'S CAMP SNOOPY & NICKELODEON UNIVERSE GRAPHICS:

The logo graphics used here, i.e. those for Knott's Camp Snoopy and Nickelodeon Universe, illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The images do not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original drawings in any way.