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


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

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 between four hundred and eight hundred and fifty stores and services.

As with WEST EDMONTON MALL, FASHION MALL OF AMERICA would feature attractions such as a submarine ride, waterpark, salt water aquarium, sixty-five screen multiplex cinema, 5-star hotel and nearly one hundred and twenty-five restaurants. These plans were eventually scaled back considerably.

However, unlike WEST EDMONTON MALL, which had been developed in three phases, the entirety of FASHION MALL OF AMERICA would be built in one. 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, Incorporated 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 four trip generator department stores at MALL OF AMERICA would be Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Sears.

On August 11, 1992, the official dedication took place. The 625 million dollar MALL OF AMERICA spanned 4.2 million square feet, with its gross leasable area being 2,779,000 square feet. It housed three hundred and twenty-seven stores (out of an eventual five hundred and twenty). There were two Panda Express locations, two Cajun Cafe Grills, two Taco Times, four Sunglass Huts and two Sam Goody's.

In all, there were one hundred restaurants along 3 miles of corridors and two 7-level parking garages, with the full capacity of all lots being thirteen thousand autos. The mall had its own zip code, school and 18-hole mini golf course.

Its 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 five specific zones;

*South Avenue. The mall's most upscale section, which featured retailers such as Victoria's Secret, Ann Taylor and Casual Corner, along with the 14-bay South Food Court and a 14-screen multiplex.

*West Market. The "young professionals" wing, with street vendors, bistros and tenants 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 landscaped with trees and shrubs and housed stores and services such as Ruby Tuesday, B. Dalton Bookseller and A Touch of Elegance. Moreover, it included the 12-bay North Food Court.

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

*Knott's Camp Snoopy. An indoor theme park loosely based on comic strip characters created by Charles M. Schultz. Within the 292,000 square foot facility, situated in the center of the complex, 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 wanting control of the mall. The issue was settled in favor of the Ghermezians in September 2003. They eventually spent over one billion dollars to establish 100 percent ownership of the property.

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

Negotiations over the licensing of the Charlie Brown comic strip characters fell through in early 2006. On January 19, all references to the Schultz-created 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 opened, assuming the old Camp Snoopy / Park At Mall Of America space, on March 15, 2008. Its main features were the SpongeBob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge, Splat-o-phere and Avatar Mindbender.

Over the years, stores at MALL OF AMERICA have come and gone. Charter tenants such as Oshman's, Filene's Basement, Service Merchandise and Linens 'N Things closed between 1997 and 2003. They were replaced by tenants such as Best Buy, DSW Shoe Warehouse and the Metropolitan Learning Alliance. A new Nordstrom Rack opened, on Level One of the West Market section, in 1998.

The 14-screen theatrical venue on Level Four of the South Avenue area has gone through three permutations; General Cinemas 14 Theatres, AMC Mall of America Cinema 14 and Theatres At Mall of America. 

The original anchor line up at MALL OF AMERICA remained intact for a little over 19 years. The shuttering of Bloomingdale's, in March 2012, brought this to an end. The vacant (210,000 square foot) anchor 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 into a new one, encompassing 80,000 square feet, December 15, 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, with their store encompassing 29,000 square feet. It opened for business in November 2014.  

The remainder of the old anchor store basement became an upscale restaurant. Floor Three was renovated into exhibit space, with the first presentation being "Barbie's Dream House". This exhibit area 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 added a three hundred and forty-two room (14-floor) JW Marriott Hotel, 7-floor office tower and 163,000 square feet of restaurants and retail. 

Vendors in a 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


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.