The World Through Music and Culture

The American Dream Miami mall could be an urban planning nightmare for residents

A rendering of the proposed American Dream Miami retail theme park by Triple Five.

by Maria Bakkalapulo for Marketplace.

Click here to hear the Marketplace story

American Dream Miami, a $4 billion retail and entertainment complex, won final zoning approval in May to build on undeveloped land off the Florida Turnpike. This 6.2 million square foot project will include an indoor ski slope, live performance space, a water park with a submarine ride and even a film studio. It will be the largest mall in America, include dozens of restaurants and over 1,200 stores. Triple Five Group, the Canadian developers who built the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, are confident that their latest mall will provide customers with an experience that online shopping can’t match. American Dream Miami predicts 30 million visitors a year — but that could mean as many as 70,000 vehicle trips a day on already busy roads. Environmental advocates and residents in the area are alarmed about traffic, pollution and harmful effects on local wetlands and wildlife. Existing malls also see a threat, and have pushed back against the project, concerned that it will undermine their profits.


Host introduction: America’s malls are struggling to compete with online shopping. Some malls are amping up their entertainment factor in order to lure customers back. Now the developer that built Mall of America in Minnesota is planning to build a huge complex in Miami, but some wonder if the city will have buyers’ remorse. Maria Bakkalapulo reports.


Bakkalapulo: Financial giant Credit Suisse estimates up to a quarter of malls in America will close within the next five years. So some mall owners are betting non-retail offerings like live music and recreation will help them stay in business.  Developer Triple Five is investing  $4 billion in a project called American Dream Miami. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, is a lawyer for the developer:

Diaz de la Portilla: We are not a mall and we don’t call ourselves a mall. Of course, there is a retail component – but it is not a run-of-the-mill mall.

Bakkalapulo: The 6.2 million square foot complex will include an indoor ski slope, live performance spaces and an indoor waterpark. Some existing malls see American Dream Miami as a threat.

Half an hour  away, there is a new 9-story glass-and-steel slide that is part of the Aventura Mall. Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who cast the only vote against American Dream Miami’s zoning application, explains.

Cava: We do have some rather large malls in the area. A group of them were very concerned and did protest this application because they felt it would cannibalize their activities.

Bakkalapulo:  In addition, she says there are environmental concerns.

Cava: A huge number of acres under glass, air conditioned, without any clear commitment to energy efficiencies and solar, things like that, will create a larger carbon footprint.

Bakkalapulo: There are also potential traffic issues. The mall developers estimate that it will draw 30 million visitors a year. Diana Cardenas  commutes through the area to get to work.

Cardenas: For me, this is a bad idea. I would consider moving because of the traffic

Bakkalapulo: Diaz de la Portilla  says the mall should create more then 14,000 jobs.

Diaz de la Portilla: It will be one of the largest private employers in Miami-Dade County.

Bakkalapulo: American Dream Miami plans to open in 2023. In Miami, I’m Maria Bakkalapulo for Marketplace


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