Mall subsidy benefits few

When it was built almost 10 years ago, no one thought it could grow any bigger. The Mall of America has left its mark on the Minnesota landscape with its stores, movie theater, nightclubs, restaurants and a theme park to keep shoppers busy when there is no shopping left to do. However, for the owners of the mall, this does not appear to be enough because they are currently making plans to expand the mall to more than double its current size. Although the expansion was planned years ago and is essentially a done deal, many aspects of the project are frightening and could end up shortchanging the people that pay for it.

Currently, the total cost of the expansion will probably reach well over $1 billion and take between five and 10 years of construction. According to a Star Tribune article, the mall will increase its square footage from 4.2 million to 9.8 million, including space for hotels, housing, offices, retail stores and a performing arts center. Some shoppers already experience stimulus overload in the existing mall with over 500 stores and 12,000 employees shuffling about and one must question the necessity of such an enormous addition, especially using tax dollars. Although the land is prime development material, the Bloomington City Council should have made more of an effort in preventing the area from turning into a temple of commercialization.

Unfortunately for Bloomington taxpayers, they will pay 10 percent of the total cost. Whether or not current Bloomington residents want to pay upwards of $100 million for the expansion doesn’t matter because the decision was made for them in 1988. Also, considering no cap was set on the amount that could be covered by the subsidy, the cost could continue to rise as construction moves forward. With the rising cost of construction material and a slowing economy, it seems that there couldn’t be a worse time for the city to have to worry about funding such an enormous retail venture.

In addition to the cost, the idea of having a residential area within a commercial space is risky and pointless. Despite the affordable housing crisis that is assailing our community, it is unlikely that the mall developers would create truly affordable housing so people with low incomes could move in. Instead, the novelty of living within a mall will encourage developers to charge high prices for tenants who can pay. Of course, considering the gang-related problems of the mall, anyone who lives there could be a continual object of harassment.

The original deal made between the city and the mall may have seemed good at the time, but it lacked long-term foresight. The constituents served by these shortsighted politicians are now forced to subsidize the mall. As the novelty of the expanded mall tapers off, so will the tourism, leaving the metro area to cope with the remnants of financial prosperity. It’s not right for the city to use taxpayer money for such projects, especially when the residents have no real choice in the matter. In the future, citizens should be more wary as to who they elect, making sure that the lawmakers are actually working in their best interests.