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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last update: May 02, 2006 – 10:23 PM

Megamall asking for megamillions
The Mall of America says it may have to scale back its expansion plans if it doesn't get $200 million in new, publicly financed subsidies.
Chris Serres, Star Tribune

Shoppers have been expecting an expansion of the Mall of America for years. Now, they finally got the bill for it.
Never known for thinking small, developers of the Bloomington megamall are asking state legislators for about $200 million in public financing to help fund the facility's $1.4 billion expansion. This is on top of $108 million the mall's developers have received in tax breaks since the shopping center opened in 1992.

The mall's developers argue that, without the subsidies, they will have to dramatically scale back expansion plans that would more than double the size of the existing mall, already the nation's largest. Preliminary plans call for an additional 5.6 million square feet, which would include a 6,000-seat performing arts center, four hotels, an ice rink and a museum.

However, without the tax breaks, the expansion might include only two hotels and a "small retail concourse," said Bill Griffith, a lawyer representing the Mall of America. "If we don't get this, then we may be forced to go back to the drawing board."

The mall's developers, Simon Property Group Inc. and Triple Five Group Ltd., are lobbying state legislators to approve a bill that would keep Phase I and Phase II of the mall off the city's property tax rolls until 2035 -- about 20 years longer than planned. That could cost Bloomington $200 million in property tax revenue, or about $2,200 per resident.

Griffith said the extension is needed because "unforeseen events," such as the expansion of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, delayed the mall's expansion and prevented developers from taking full advantage of the original tax break it negotiated in 1988. "We're asking state legislators to give us back the lost years," he said.

But some state legislators say the mall has already received enough public money, and they question the assertion that the second phase can't proceed as planned without the 20-year extension.

"There isn't a developer in this state that wouldn't love to get their hands on that property," said John Marty, the DFL state senator from Roseville. "They didn't need a subsidy in 1988, and they don't need one now." The original tax break negotiated between Bloomington and the mall in 1988 centered on tax-increment financing, a commonly used but sometimes controversial financing tool, which is a loan on a project that is paid back through increased property taxes on the newly improved property.

The original intention of tax-increment financing was to encourage new development in blighted areas by having taxpayers pick up part of the cost. But in recent years, it has been used to stimulate retail development in valuable pieces of real estate. Minneapolis devoted millions in subsidies to build a Target store downtown.

Proponents of extending the original tax breaks for the Mall of America argue that the tax benefits of Phase II will far outweigh the subsidies. Bloomington officials estimate that the project will generate at least $17 million a year in new property-tax revenue, or $340 million over 20 years. The estimate doesn't include sales tax revenue or spillover benefits from additional development in the area.

Since it opened, the mall has generated more than $600 million in state and local tax revenue, according to Bloomington city officials. That's nearly six times the subsidies developers received under the original agreement.

Even so, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, a DFL member from Bloomington, questioned why the mall was seeking a 20-year extension for both phases. She said a single extension of 10 to 15 years might be appropriate, but only for the expansion.

She said city and state officials should be willing to consider a smaller Phase II, if it means less public money will be put at risk. "It wouldn't be the end of the world if this turned out to be 2.2 million square feet instead of 5.6 million," she said. "Every developer thinks his project is urgent, and it has to happen now, or it's a crisis. I'm not compelled by that argument."

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Last update: May 11, 2006 – 10:41 PM

Megamall losing support for tax breaks to fund its expansion
Two House members from Bloomington, the Mall of America's home, came out against subsidies to finance the center's expansion.
Susan Feyder, Star Tribune

The legislative window might be closing on the Mall of America's request for about $200 million in tax breaks to help it fund its planned $1.4 billion expansion.
Two Minnesota House members from the mall's home city of Bloomington, DFLers Ann Lenczewski and Dan Larson, said Thursday that they would not support a bill that would keep the existing mall and its Phase II expansion off property tax rolls until 2035 -- about 20 years longer than planned.

A third House member, Republican Neil W. Peterson, declined to give his opinion about the measure, but said that at this point in the legislative session, it is logistically impossible to attach the request to any House bill. The request would focus on extending the tax breaks that have been provided to the mall through tax-increment financing (TIF), which allows future property taxes on developments to be used solely to repay their construction costs.

"Any discussion of a TIF extension now is academic at best," Peterson said.

Lenczewski pointed out that the mall continues to benefit from its original TIF designation, which will not expire until 2015.

"Bloomington residents are waiting for Phase I to start paying its taxes," she said.

Mall officials declined to comment Thursday. Previously, they have said that without the tax breaks, they would have to scale back their expansion plans, which call for more than doubling the size of the massive shopping center. Mall officials have said they would like to start work on the expansion this fall and complete it by the end of 2009.

Sen. William V. Belanger Jr., R-Bloomington, said Thursday that he had included the TIF extension as an amendment to the omnibus tax bill, but withdrew it this week. He said mall officials have told him that they intend to pursue other ways of public financing for Phase II that could be enacted by the Legislature this session.

Mr Anti
714 Posts
^^ I hope you are kidding!

8,354 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Posted on Tue, May. 23, 2006
Mall's Phase 2 on hold till '07
Owners to seek tax break again
Pioneer Press
Forget about that fall ground breaking for the Mall of America's mega-expansion plan. Mall developers now hope to launch the project a year from now.

"At this point, the expected groundbreaking for Phase 2 is the spring of 2007,'' Bill Griffith, an attorney for the Mall of America, said Monday of the mall's plan for an additional 5.6 million square feet of retail and entertainment space. The existing mall is about 4.2 million square feet, with slightly more than half of that being retail.

The mall and its home city of Bloomington failed this session to get state lawmakers to consider a further public subsidy for the project.

"We are disappointed but not discouraged,'' Griffith said, adding that the mall will try again for tax assistance when lawmakers reconvene next year.

Meanwhile, despite earlier indications, the mall isn't planning to pare back the proposed expansion. "There is no effort to modify those plans at this stage,'' Griffith said. "The project is too important to the state and the region to stop now."

The mall's basic subsidy argument: the bigger its expansion the more additional revenue to the state on top of the $48 million in annual income, sales and property tax revenue it says it now generates for Minnesota.

Currently, the mall's expansion plan includes upscale restaurants, a 6,000-seat performing arts center, a skating rink, four hotels and parking ramps for up to 6,700 vehicles.

The mall, which is under two tax-increment districts, wants an exemption from a Minnesota tax law so $5.3 million in annual property taxes it has been paying the state since 2002 would instead go to Bloomington to be used to finance parking and other utilities for the expansion. Tax increment financing allows cities to set up special taxing districts where increased property taxes from new or expanded development are used to pay off utility upgrades.
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