Lawmakers approved big tax break for Mall of America expansion plan

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An ambitious but long-dormant plan to double the size of the Mall of America got a shot of energy this week when – in the final moments of the legislative session – Minnesota lawmakers approved a $250 million tax break for the expansion project, the Pioneer Press reports. The money was part of a broader tax bill.

The $1.5 billion Phase II plan would tack on 5.6 million square feet to the mammoth Bloomington tourist attraction, and include an NHL-sized skating rink, hotels, new restaurants and nightlife options, a waterpark, a performing arts center, office tower, hundreds of stores, and 8,000 new parking spaces, the newspaper reports. Here's more info about the plan.

Mall officials have not had much luck in previous years pleading for public subsidies, the Star Tribune notes.

"Through this action, our leaders have said 'yes' to Minnesota, 'yes' to new jobs, 'yes' to new tourist revenue and 'yes' to investing in our communities," mall owner Triple Five Group said.

But the project has its foes, including those who are concerned about the way state lawmakers used a controversial funding mechanism to pay for a single lavish private development, the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press report.

The Phase II plan was first proposed in 2006, but it sat inert for years. Construction would take years, and its not clear when it might be cleared to begin. Project backers say the expansion will draw an additional 20 million people to mall. About 40 million currently visit every year.

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