US’s biggest mall gets go-ahead in Florida

Plans for the biggest mall in America have been given the go-ahead in Florida.

American Dream Miami will boast an indoor ski slope and skating rink, ice-climbing wall and waterpark with its own lake and submarine trips as part of the $4 billion retail and entertainment complex near Miami.

The proposal also features a 14-screen 3-D movie theater, a performing arts center as well as hundreds of retail shops, restaurants and 2,000 hotel rooms inside the 6.2million sq ft complex. It will be twice the size of the nation’s current largest mall – the King of Prussia Mall in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Developers are Triple Five, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who were the masterminds behind Mall of America; the biggest mall in the US when it opened in 1992. They are also in the process of building an American Dream mall in New Jersey which is set to open next year. 

American Dream Miami will boast an indoor ski slope and skating rink, ice-climbing wall and waterpark with its own lake and submarine trips as part of the $4 billion retail and entertainment complex

They received zoning approval in May from the Miami-Dade County Commission in an 11-1 vote. Now they are waiting for environmental and water permits for the 174-acre site.

It will reportedly create 25,000 jobs, once opened, and attract 30 million tourists each year. 

Such as huge project is a bold move at a time when malls and retailers all over the country are closing. Malls and mall-based retailers have been struggling to stay above water during the past two decades, and experts believe that many more will close in the next few years as consumer chose to shop online.

Trends also show that people are becoming more likely to spend on experiences than goods. 

But Triple Five believes it can overcome consumers’ apathy towards traditional bricks and mortar by making shopping more fun.

American Dream Miami will focus on its attractions, marketing itself as a local alternative to Disney World, where visitors can enjoy a day out, skiing in the morning, an afternoon submarine ride and dinner and a movie in the evening. 

And in between the attractions, the hope is visitors will shop. 

Original plans had envisioned a smaller project with 3.5 million square feet of retail space and 1.5 million square feet of entertainment space, now entertainment will dominate the space. 

The developers are hoping it will become a ‘destination mall’, bringing in not just local shoppers, but visitors from all over the state.

David Smiley, the assistant director of Columbia University’s Urban Design graduate program, told the Business Insider destination malls could be the future of retail. 

‘The emergence of entertainment as part of the shopping mall is becoming very important,’ he said. ‘It keeps people in the center longer. And even if they weren’t going to shop for something, they get lured in.’

It also follow the example of other mall developers who are filling malls with restaurants, theaters and even theme park rides. 

American Dream Miami will be located at the intersection of Interstate 75, Florida’s Turnpike Extension and Miami Gardens Drive, near Miami and the Everglades.

But there are still plenty of obstacles before it gets the green light.

Residents have raised concerns about traffic and the effect it will have on the environment, while local mall and business owners, concerned about the competition, have argued it should not get government subsidies.

The South Florida Taxpayers Alliance, a group of mall owners, lobbied county officials to prevent Triple Five’s project from being funded or subsidized by taxpayer dollars, WSJ reports.

They argue that tourists visiting the state for attractions would be more likely to go to Orlando, and that its main customers would be attracted from existing malls.

The board of commissioners has since passed a resolution to guarantee that Miami-Dade County doesn’t pay for the project, although it does not prevent subsidies from the federal government or state. Triple Five insist they don’t need subsidies and can complete the entire project on private funds.

They also argue South Florida’s population is growing twice as fast as the rest of the US, 10 per cent compared to five between July 2017 from April 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so there is arguably a growing market for more retail.