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Public aid for Mall of America expansion comes under fire

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Minnesota lawmakers took heat for subsidizing the Mall of America’s long-dormant expansion plan by raiding a fund designed to reduce disparities among suburbs in their commercial property tax revenue.

The Wall Street Journal uses the sticky issue to illustrate the dilemmas cities face in trying to spur development and attract business.

Minnesota lawmakers approved a $250 million tax break for the $1.5 project in the final moments of the legislative session.

However, critics argue the controversial new funding mechanism draws from the region’s tax-sharing money to pay for the mall’s parking, roads, sewer lines and other public infrastructure.

"Bloomington is one of the wealthiest municipalities in the region. They should be able to do this on their own," Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota specializing in taxes, land use and regional development, told the Journal. "It's also allowing Bloomington to muscle up its retail presence, which will hurt other retail centers in the area."

The Mall of America plans to double its size, including 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.

Project supporters say the expansion will draw an additional 20 million people to mall. About 40 million currently visit every year.

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