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MALL OF AMERICA BEGINS BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE

DALLAS -- As if the Mall of America weren't big enough already.<P>The mammoth 4.2 million square-foot shopping center in Bloomington, Minn., plans to get a whole lot bigger by breaking ground on the first phase of a 5.1 million-square-foot expansion...

DALLAS — As if the Mall of America weren’t big enough already.

The mammoth 4.2 million square-foot shopping center in Bloomington, Minn., plans to get a whole lot bigger by breaking ground on the first phase of a 5.1 million-square-foot expansion program that will more than double its current size. Construction will begin by year’s end, according to a spokeswoman.

Key anchors now include Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Sears and Nordstrom, with others expected for the expansion. But sources said the added square footage could include hotels and office buildings as well as additional stores.

“The exercise was to figure out what was missing in the market,” said a source close to the project. “What most developers do is go back and see what apparel retailers they can add. They’ve dealt with every generation of consumers in the new plan.”

At last count, Mall of America had more than 520 stores, a full-scale amusement park with a roller coaster called Camp Snoopy, 83 food-related venues from sit-down restaurants to fast food eateries, eight nightclubs and a 14-screen movie theater.

The mall, which will celebrate its 10th birthday in August, is 99 percent leased, but it has begun to show its age.

At the time it was built, the Mall of America was one of the first examples of a new entertainment-shopping hybrid, but since then a lot has changed. Entertainment-oriented retailers such as The Disney Store and Planet Hollywood aren’t as popular as they once were and teens and young adults are looking for bigger thrills than roller coasters.

The mall’s owners, Simon Property Group, Teacher’s Insurance & Annuity Association and Triple Five Corp., recognize that. “Retail was entirely different 10 years ago,” said the source. “Consumers are different now.”

Mall of America has an economic impact on Minnesota of nearly $1.6 billion annually. More than 350 million shoppers have visited the mall since it opened, and with more than 600,000 visitors passing through every week, it claims to be the top tourist attraction in the country.

The mall cost more $650 million to build.

The Mall of America was conceived as the “son of the West Edmonton Mall” in Alberta, Canada. At least for now, West Edmonton holds the record as the world’s largest mall with 5.3 million square feet and about 800 stores.