Miami to host largest destination mall in U.S.

American Dream Miami, set to be the largest mall in the U.S., will include an indoor ski slope. (Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr)

Last month, approval was given to start building the largest destination mall in the U.S. Triple Five Group, owners of the Mall of America in Minnesota, will develop the $4 billion American Dream Miami. The 6.2 million-square-foot destination is looking to be a model for all retail locations of the future.

Under the leadership of Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, an attorney with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, and his team, the project was approved and is expected to attract 30 million visitors a year—more than Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Some of the central elements of the project include submarine rides and an artificial ski slope, not to mention a hotel with 2,000 rooms.

FierceRetail sat down with Diaz de la Portilla to discuss what will make the American Dream Miami unique and how it will set the standards for malls of the future. 

FierceRetail (FR): Why was Miami chosen as the location for this super mall?

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (MD): Miami was chosen as the location for this unique family entertainment and retail destination because Miami is demographically and geographically blessed. Miami is the city of the present and future, in terms of its cosmopolitan flavor, demographic composition and international appeal.

FR: What are some of the unique components of this destination that will set it apart from the Mall of America?

MD: American Dream Miami will be 55% entertainment and 45% retail. In comparison, approximately 25% of Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is entertainment space, with the remainder being retail. But what will truly make ADM stand out isn’t just the ratio of entertainment options to retail: What will distinguish ADM from your run-of-the-mill mall is the spectacular nature of its entertainment options. Where else in the world will families be able to ski indoors, pilot a real submarine, watch Chinese acrobats, eat at a world class restaurant and shop for their favorite brands in one action-packed day?

FR: What are some of the key items that consumers are looking for in a shopping destination in 2018?

MD: The new business model is giving people an experience you can only get by showing up. It’s true that Amazon continues to dominate the retail market, but when you take a look at those retail properties that offer experiences to people, whether it’s dining or entertainment, they do a lot better. In the case of American Dream Miami, you’ll have the opportunity to experience live entertainment, a theme park, skiing, submarine rides, educational attractions and fine dining—you can’t do that online. ADM will give people a reason to leave their homes. Consumers are also looking for particular brands and products under one roof. Your tenant mix is very important; it always has been in retail. I can’t disclose any of the tenants Triple Five is negotiating with right now, but it will be a mix of high-end stores as well as some more affordable brands.

FR: What demographic will this new mall most appeal to?

MD: I think ADM will appeal to all demographics. You’ll see a lot of families, as you see at Mall of America, which is the very first iteration of this entertainment/retail concept in the U.S. There will be an opportunity for a family to have a theme park experience, have dinner and catch a show. You’re also going to have a lot of tourists from Latin America and Europe because Miami-Dade County is a mecca for tourists. There are also going to be 2,000 hotel rooms on our property. Visitors will be able to stay for a week and not run out of thrilling things to do.

FR: How does technology play into this unique space?

MD: At ADM, a number of store concepts will work more like showrooms. Think of the Tesla model: a place where you go try out the product you want and have it shipped to you. As far as running the actual property, the parking alone will use technology to bring people in by showing where parking space is available. ADM will have cutting-edge technology in terms of the way the whole property is powered and operated. Everywhere that Triple Five goes, they maximize energy efficiency. ADM will be environmentally sensitive and cutting-edge technology will make it so. When it comes to ADM’s entertainment components, technology is going to be the key. The ski slope, submarine lake, the water park’s wave and jet ski features, will all depend on the latest technology.

FR: What do you think most shopping centers will look like in 2025?

MD: If they want to survive, they’ll look more like American Dream Miami. They will have options for everyone and offer a fun experience for all. Today, others are attempting to follow Triple Five’s vision; you are beginning to see the transformation of retail centers. For example, Aventura Mall in Miami just added a 93-foot-tall slide, and The Galleria in Fort Lauderdale just announced a 23,000-square-foot sea life attraction. Like in American Dream Miami, many of the future shopping centers will require land-use changes and rezoning to accommodate a type of product that can be completely new to a community. It took us nearly four years and 12 public hearings to secure all the approvals to move forward.