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Mall of America's expansion takes shape as new entrance opens

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The stream of buses, taxis, and shuttles that delivers tourists and other visitors to the Mall of America has a new route.

On Monday the Bloomington mall opened a new front door that's part of its $350 million expansion.

As KARE 11 reports, the three-story addition on the mall's north side includes two levels of retail space, with a dining area called "Culinary on North" on the top floor. It's flanked by a another pair of new buildings: a JW Marriott hotel on one side and a 10-story office tower on the other.

Until the retail space is filled, the walls of the addition are covered with displays by local artists, KARE says.

But its centerpiece – a 5,000 square foot atrium under a giant skylight – is already the mall's new gathering place, a spokesman tells MPR News.

Dan Jasper tells the network the idea is to make a trip to the mall more enjoyable than shopping online. Amenities including a new phone-based valet parking option are meant to add to the experience.

Are shopping malls doomed?

There are mall skeptics who see evidence that as more Americans float down the Amazon river or other online options, the trip to the mall will become a relic. Last year, The Guardian suggested that and the New Yorker wondered about it.

But University of St. Thomas marketing professor David Brennan tells MPR he thinks the strongest shopping malls – like Bloomington's big one – are not going away. Brennan says diversification, such as the megamall's new hotel and office tower, will help its survival.

MPR says the JW Marriott will open in two weeks. While there are not yet any stores in the new addition, some restaurants have opened in Culinary on North.

The growth of the Mall of America shows no signs of slowing down. The expansion happening now is being called Phase One because an even bigger addition is on the drawing board, with $500 million worth of plans laid out for the city of Bloomington last month.

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