Behind the scenes at the Mall of America

Minnesota State Roundup

Published July 1, 1992  | July 1992 issue

Minnesota retail history will be made August 11, 1992, when the Mall of America opens its doors for business in the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington.

Much has been made of the 2.6 million square feet of retail space and the 350-plus stores the mall will house. And the entertainment centers provided by Knott's Camp Snoopy and Lego Imagination Center have garnered nearly as much attention. Viewed by many as a "city-within-a-city," the mall, the size of 88 football fields, with 10,000 employees will function just as many small cities might.

While many have decried the size of the enterprise, Melvin Simon & Associates, developers of the Mall of America, have attempted to create a unique retail experience for customers. "The designers and tenants of the mall have gone to great lengths to keep shoppers and visitors oriented and comfortable with the scale of their surroundings," says Mike Dorsey, public relations coordinator for the Mall of America. A number of conveniences will greet visitors.

Parking—With 13,000 parking spaces, the mall boasts the largest parking facility in North America. Two seven-level decks and additional surface lots keep shoppers no further than 300 feet from the closest mall entrance. Upper level entertainment venues will be reached by ramps that lead directly to the closest parking deck.

Customer Service—Each of the eight main entrances will have a customer service area that will include information centers, family rooms, changing areas for babies and rest areas. At the information centers, cellular phones and personal pagers may be rented to groups or families who may wish to shop in separate parts of the mall yet still remain in communication with each other. And for foreign groups, interpreters will be available. In addition, the mall includes 27 sets of handicapped-accessible public restrooms.

Transportation—The Metropolitan Transit Commission has scheduled 10 mall bus routes. And once inside, a three quarter-mile tour around third level of the mall can be made via an electric golf cart-like tram. Level-to-level movement will be accomplished by 44 escalators and 15 sets of elevators.

Beyond the amenities the visitor sees are many more that remain hidden or unnoticed. "The systems that are built into the mall are designed to give the customer a safe, worry-free visit," Dorsey says.

Safety and security—A 24-hour-a-day security center monitors 140 surveillance cameras throughout the mall, with 98 located in the parking ramps. In addition, each of the two ramps has its own surveillance vehicle on continuous patrol, and a third patrol vehicle will cruise the surface lots. Ramp lighting that is three times as great as the lighting in a standard facility plus 130 emergency call boxes located throughout the ramps will add to mall security. Within the mall, a staff of 60 security specialists will patrol as needed.

Medical and emergency—A fully staffed and maintained affiliate clinic will include an urgent care center and will also offer occupational medical services.

Waste recycling—A waste management and recycling program will eventually recycle up to 50 percent (nearly 20 tons of waste each week) of all waste produced by the mall. In addition, a "recycling store" will house an environmental education center.

The mall will seem more like a city when the "mall school" opens. Five school districts are jointly planning to establish classrooms for kindergarten through senior high school students. While they were originally scheduled to open this fall, lack of funds has delayed the program until at least fall of 1993. Sue Eklund, education coordinator for the Metropolitan Learning Alliance, a consortium of five metro area school districts, indicates that programs that draw on the expertise of the mall's developers and tenants will be stressed. "The mall offers a true experiential learning opportunity. The architects and builders of the mall, as well as many of the tenants, will provide business partnerships with the school," according to Eklund. The school will eventually offer "real-life learning" opportunities for kindergartners through adults.

Dean Davis