Miami megamall could be biggest in the U.S. — but don’t call it a mall
MIAMI — Call it retail-tainment. Just don’t call American Dream Miami a mall.
Developers are proposing a massive 557,000 square-metre project on the edge of the Everglades in bustling South Florida that would dwarf any other shopping mecca in North America, including Minnesota’s Mall of America.
Miami-Dade County officials could vote this fall to approve it, despite some criticism that it will worsen the region’s already choking traffic problem and might produce mostly low-paying jobs. In general, malls across the United States have been in a slow decline as shoppers flock to the Internet.
Don Ghermezian, president of developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton — which also built the giant West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America — said this is not your father’s shopping mall. In addition to thousands of square metres of retail, the project would include an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theatres, a performing arts centre and restaurants.
The idea, Ghermezian said at a recent public hearing, is to give millions of residents and tourists in the Miami area a family friendly alternative to Orlando attractions such as Disney World and Universal.
“We are not mall developers. That’s not what we’re trying to build,” he said. “A lot of it is ‘retail-tainment.’ What we’re trying to create is an economic engine.”
Triple Five predicts American Dream would draw 300,000 visitors a day and create about 14,500 permanent jobs. Politicians are lining up in support.
“World class cities have world class facilities,” said Dennis Moss, a Miami-Dade County commissioner. “All of the great things that we have going in this community, a huge disadvantage is we don’t have a lot of family entertainment and amusement activities. This is a game-changer.”
Many malls around the country are in decline. Faith Hope Consolo, chair of retail, marketing and sales at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York, said the retail world is “moving toward entertainment and creating experiences.” She said Triple Five’s plan in Miami has an excellent chance of succeeding.
“What’s on the way out are the tired strip malls that haven’t been updated in 30 years. What’s in are beautiful shopping complexes, entertainment destinations. What’s going to work in the future is the focus on experience, one-of-a-kind places where you want to go.”
Still, not everyone is convinced American Dream is a good idea. It would be built at the confluence of two major highways — Interstate 75 and Florida’s Turnpike — that already are frequently choked with traffic.
There are also plans by a separate developer, The Graham Companies, to build a 339acre project adjacent to American Dream that would include office space, retail and 2,000 apartments. Translation: more cars.
Estimates say the projects would create 70,000 new car trips per day.
Doug Travis Williams, who lives in South Miami, said he often sits in traffic two or three hours a day.
“We don’t have the infrastructure in place to do something like this. We can’t even get to where we need to get now,” he said.
There are also concerns that many of the jobs created will be relatively low-paying. Triple Five estimated that 60 per cent of the jobs would pay less than $25,000 a year.