BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) -- A luxury Radisson Blu hotel has opened next to the Mall of America, ushering in a new era of expansion plans at the mall.
The 13-story, 500-room hotel becomes the first nearby hotel to be linked by skyway to the Bloomington mall. Friday's opening comes at a time when the Mall of America is proceeding with a $225 million construction project aimed at adding upscale retail, lodging and entertainment venues.
"The hotel serves the same purpose as an anchor store, which is to bring in more people," Kurt Hagen, executive vice president of development at Mall of America owner Triple Five Group, told the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/WMVWVt ). "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 closer to the mall than they otherwise would, Hagen said.
Construction on the $137.5 million Bloomington Radisson Blu began in mid-2011. The Mall of America eliminated parking areas on its south side to accommodate the new hotel.
New York and Los Angeles also were under consideration for the second Radisson Blu in the U.S. 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.
The Bloomington hotel features royal blue electric lighting and modern design and has 26,300 square feet of meeting and event space.
The lobby has a tissue-paper-inspired wall, meant to represent a shopping bag. The upstairs lounge is dotted with more than a dozen modern chairs, many in bright red. The earthy Fire Lake Restaurant has pool tables and walls and ceilings lined with rough wood.
The Radisson Blu is an effort by Radisson's parent, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, to stake its claim in the high-end hotel market.
"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.
Rosenberg also cited the skyway link to the mall. "You can just walk over without going outside," he said.
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.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com