The Nineties in America
Mall of America
Identification: The second-largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America
Date: Opened on August 11, 1992
Place: Bloomington, Minnesota
Since its opening, the Mall of America has regularly attracted over forty million visitors annually to the more than five hundred shops within it that are housed in an enclosed area of approximately 4.2 million square feet. With parking facilities for 12,550 cars (later increased to 20,000 cars), the mall employs some twelve thousand people, making it a significant factor in Minnesota's economy.
Strategically located at the intersection of Interstate 494 and Highway 77 close to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota, the Mall of America is the most visited megamall in the United States, attracting annually more visitors than the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument combined. Although it is not the largest mall in North America—a distinction held by the West Edmonton Mall in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, whose square footage is 5.2 million—the Mall of America attracts more visitors than any mall in North America. It is the third-largest enclosed mall when measured by its retail space, but it is the largest in the United States when measured by its total enclosed area.
The Architectural Plan
The sprawling Mall of America is essentially rectangular. Three sides of the rectangle have three levels with over five hundred shops facing the pedestrian passageways on its sides. There is a fourth level on the remaining side of the rectangle, much of it devoted to restaurants, bars, cocktail lounges, and other service facilities. The mall is subdivided into four zones, each distinctive in its decor. Because of Minnesota's harsh winters, the mall is totally enclosed so that visitors are not subjected to the extreme weather. The design is also environmentally friendly: Hundreds of skylights provide illumination as well as solar-generated heat.
Only the entrances to the mall are heated. Some of the heat needed to make the mall comfortable is generated by its lighting fixtures, and a great deal more comes from the body heat of people working in or visiting the mall. It amazes many people to learn that in the dead of winter, it is often necessary to cool the mall artificially to make it comfortable.
Aside from more than five hundred retail stores that occupy three levels of the mall, each of the corners of the mall is occupied by a so-called anchor store, a large department store with a well-known name. In the Mall of America, the anchor stores are Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Sears.
An Accessible Location
The Mall of America is ideally situated for accessibility by the populations of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Its proximity to an international airport has made it possible for the mall, in cooperation with various airlines, to offer special inducements to fly people from abroad to Minnesota for shopping sprees at the legendary mall. The site on which the mall was constructed was originally occupied by the Metropolitan Sports Arena and Met Stadium, where the Minnesota Twins baseball team played for many years. One seat from the Met Stadium was placed in the Mall of America at the spot it originally occupied to mark the 520-foot home run hit by Harmon Killebrew, who went on to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Bloomington Port Authority contracted with the Triple Five Group, the Canadian concern that built the West Edmonton Mall, to construct a megamall in Bloomington. Ground was broken for the Mall of America on June 14, 1989, and some three years later, on August 11, 1992, the mall opened its doors to its first customers.
The Mall of America has become an American icon. Within its walls are a fourteen-screen movie theater, a wedding chapel, a church, an eighteen-hole miniature golf course, and an alternative high school, the Metropolitan Learning Alliance. The Hiawatha Light Rail connects the mall to the nearby international airport and to downtown Minneapolis.
The economic impact of the Mall of America has been substantial. It has turned suburban Bloomington, the third-largest city in Minnesota, into a thriving metropolis with a workforce of thousands of people who have jobs ancillary to those of the twelve thousand people employed directly in the mall itself. Visitors from around the world have come to Minnesota, the northernmost of the forty-eight contiguous states, to visit and shop in the mall.
Herwig, Oliver. Dream Worlds: Architecture and Entertainment. New York: Prestel, 2006. A well-illustrated volume especially valuable for its chapter titled "Southdale Mall and the Mall of America: A Shopping Universe."
Lysloff, René T. A., and Leslie C. Gay, Jr. Music and Technoculture. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Especially relevant is chapter 13, "Sounds Like the Mall of America: Programmed Music and the Archtectonics of Commercial Space."
Nelson, Eric. The Mall of America: Reflections of a Virtual Community. Lakeville, Minn.: Galde Press, 1998. An extremely valuable resource that covers the history of the Mall of America as well as the social implications of such an enterprise.
Rubenstein, Harvey. Pedestrian Malls, Streetscapes, and Urban Spaces. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1992. One of the best sources on the types of malls found worldwide. The historical perspective of this book is broad and, although it was published shortly before the Mall of America was established, the book is worth referring to for its overall portrayal of malls throughout the world.
R. Baird ShumanSee Also
Architecture; Business and the economy in the United States; Corporate welfare; Employment in the United States; Recession of 1990-1991; Ventura, Jesse.
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