|By Steve Alexander, Star Tribune
(Minneapolis)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 16, 2013--A luxury Radisson Blu hotel with royal blue electric lighting and modern design ushered in a new era for expansion plans at the Mall of America on Friday, becoming the first nearby hotel to be linked by skyway to the mall.
The opening of the 13-story, 500-room hotel comes at a time when the Bloomington mall is proceeding with a $225 million construction project that aims to add upscale retail, lodging and entertainment venues.
"The hotel serves the same purpose as an anchor store, which is to bring in more people," said Kurt Hagen, executive vice president of development at Mall of America owner Triple Five Group. "People staying in the Radisson Blu will shop, buy food and be entertained in the mall."
The Radisson Blu also is expected to encourage some of the mall's out-of-state visitors to stay in a hotel closer to the mall than they otherwise would, Hagen said.
Construction on the $137.5 million Bloomington Radisson Blu began in mid-2011, with the mall eliminating parking areas on its south side.
Locations in New York and Los Angeles were also under consideration for the second U.S. hotel location after Chicago, but the Mall of America location became available first. There already are about 260 Radisson Blu hotels in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
With 26,300 square feet of meeting and event space, the Bloomington hotel aims to offer "an edgy, fashion-forward aesthetic with chic, modern Midwestern appeal," according to Radisson officials.
The lobby has a tissue-paper-inspired wall, meant to represent a shopping bag. The upstairs lounge is dotted with more than a dozen über-modern chairs, many in bright red. In contrast, the earthy Fire Lake Restaurant has pool tables and walls and ceilings lined with rough wood.
Known inside the company as "an upper upscale hotel," Radisson Blu is an effort by Radisson's parent, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, to stake its claim in the high-end hotel market after its brand had become tarnished by unfavorable customer reviews. Radisson ranked last in guest satisfaction among its North American upscale hotel peers in a 2012 survey by consumer satisfaction giant J.D. Power and Associates.
"Why locate at the Mall of America? They have an incredible 42 million visitors a year, so the location made sense," said Javier Rosenberg, chief operating officer for Radisson North America in Minnetonka.
"The skyway link to the mall made all the difference because it provides more access," he said. "You can just walk over without going outside."
The Radisson Blu's financial arrangement with the Mall of America is the same as an anchor tenant such as Nordstrom, Hagen said. Like a department store, Radisson owns its building, but pays rent to the mall.
Because of that relationship, the Radisson Blu is considered a first step in the mall's Phase II expansion, expected to be completed in the summer of 2015. Up next is a new mall building north of the present one that will contain retail space and a second, smaller hotel. The operator of that hotel hasn't been disclosed yet. The Mayo Clinic decided recently it would not open a wellness facility on the north side.
Reconstruction of a critical feeder street, Lindau Lane, and other infrastructure needs are already underway. The expansion to the north will increase the size of the Mall of America from the present 4.9 million square feet to 5.5 million square feet, Hagen said.
Over the next 10 to 15 years, additional mall expansions are expected to raise the mall's total size to 9.8 million square feet. As a result of this continued growth, the Mall of America is expected to retain its title as the largest indoor shopping mall in the United States, Hagen said.
Steve Alexander --612-673-4553
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