In the truth is stranger than fiction category CNN Money reports   on the puzzling emergence of  “American Dream Miami” a South Florida retail and entertainment complex that will be 6 million square feet-or roughly three times the size of the  Tsawwassen Mills Mall built between Highway 99 and the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.
Despite the fact that Amazon is taking over nearly every aspect of retailing and that large retailers are going to on-line sales to maintain their margins, the “American Dream Miami” hopes to create enough “experiences” that people will want to spend a lot of time shopping there too.  The Triple Five Group  who is developing this behemoth is owned by the Ghermezian family from Edmonton that have developed the Mall of America and the West Edmonton Mall. These are the same folks that took over the failed “Xanadu” Mall in New Jersey and are attempting to remake it into American Dream Meadowlands.  
complete with a giant ferris wheel and water slides. That project has missed its targets and now appears stalled.
Triple Five is counting on Miami shoppers wanting experiences, with a “skating rink, an indoor ski slope, an aquarium, nightclubs and theater space that can host acts like Cirque du Soleil and the Russian ballet.” This $4 billion project will also include 2,000 hotel rooms, and will not be built with public funding. “You’re talking about a regional entertainment destination,” said Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a zoning lawyer for American Dream. “It’s not a run-of-the-mill mall.”
With County approvals projected for this year, this mall could be built by 2022 and is expected to create 23,000 construction jobs and 14,500 jobs associated with the mall. But if they build it are there shoppers and experience seekers that will come?


  1. People like to shop indoors in inclement weather, be it -20 like in Edmonton or Minneapolis or in stifling humidity and plus 35.
    Shopping is not just buying which one can do at home on the computer. It is an experience, it is theatre, it is about food and drinks and fountains and dolphins and ice cream and entertainment and colours and throngs of people watching and family reunions .. and maybe even buying some Christmas gifts, or Father’s Day gifts or mere necessities.

  2. Malls are not cities. They are private landscapes with a millimetre-thin corporate interpretation of what constitutes ‘community.’ Nothing there is free, or purpose-built as a public service or amenity. The public amenities (transit, roads) are built to their edges, and malls are completely dependent on them. They are closed after 9:00. Lately, some of their economic foundations have been shaken in certain instances as society’s needs and preferences change with each new and more enlightened generation.
    In my opinion, there needs to be a new Canadian urban design movement that first and foremost starts with the public realm. Street networks require deep, wholesale rethinking. Public squares and pedestrian streets could be built and glassed over. The public and private realms should be balanced, with public space deeply incised and providing access to private business. Transit would be located at the centre, not the edge. Roads and cars, having such low utility, would not be allowed to dominate the valuable surface space better maintained for human circulation, open space in key locations, and floor space.
    Copenhagen’s Stroget achieves these goals quite admirably. Imagine that it was expanded, and that several streets were encased in glass for winter use. There is no reason why Metrotown, for example, could not have started with a 10,000 m2 glassed over public square at the centre with an underground SkyTrain Station and an entry popping up at the surface, and other public and private entities anchoring all four sides. The public realm would trade the surface space for more private mixed-use density.
    But that’s not how it went. Thousands of malls are still approved and developed based on models that originated in the 60s and 70s. The only thing new is the sensationalistic entertainment, with the exception of the radical economics of rapid transit-stimulated high density in more urbanized locations.
    When you consider climate change and the economics that surround fossil fuels, moving toward a more compact and fully electrified urban form in our cities must take precedence. Now is the time. But who will heed the call?

    1. Many malls have public transit at them, eg Lougheed Mall, Metrotown, Pacific Center, Oakridge, soon even Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall.
      Many areas of the US like this mall shown rely on cars as that is common transportation in certain parts of the US. What is good for MetroVan does not necessarily work for Florida or Minneapolis.
      Besides the public realm there is private realm. Are you saying a developer that wants to spend $1B on a mall isn’t allowed to do that because you personally don’t like the concept, but millions of others do ? Or do you just don’t like developers ? Or people that invest into commercial real estate ? Or you just despise cars? Many people love their cars and the mobility freedom it provides. Many!
      As such we cannot force one design principle onto all new developments. Other areas of Florida or even Texas cater to a more transit oriented, denser, walkable community plus retail experience.
      Both have their place. The world is just too diverse to force it into one design paradigm. Individually owned mobility devices will be with us for decades, likely centuries to come, be it a horse, a golf cart, an e-car, a motorcycle, an AV or an airplane.

      1. Rebuilding the suburbs into compact towns strung together with rail transit, like a pearl necklace, starting with a wholesale transformation of auto malls and roads into human-scaled communities is not new, nor is it Vancouver-centric.
        F minus for poor reading skills.

    2. I agree so strongly with this, Alex.
      Thomas, I think you completely miss the point. “The world is just too diverse to force it into one design paradigm”: this is an argument against malls, not for them.
      Urban diversity and complexity occurs at the boundaries between spaces, and between different *kinds* of spaces: above all where private meets public. This is the core take-away from Jane Jacobs, so famously illustrated in her description of the street. The balanced and “deeply incised” public space Alex describes is an engine for diversity.
      Alex, I have seen you refer repeatedly to the commons. I am with you. (This is where my one-time fight over copyright led me.) The commons is such a critical concept, and one that is widely misunderstood. Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons is a useful thought exercise, but as a description of the historical commons it is tremendously misleading. The actual peasant commons before enclosure were not simply public or private. In fact, much of the common space was indeed individually owned: but not as property in the modern sense. These were shared spaces governed by diverse rights and obligations, from the right to glean firewood or peat to the duty to provide fertilizer by grazing cattle or to beat the bounds to prevent encroachment. Their destruction did not foster diversity; it eliminated it, and led to an epidemic of pauperism. Only by chance did the industrial revolution eventually, after much suffering, offer another way forward. (The selfish and malicious motivations behind enclosure are another story. The Tragedy of the Commons is less a description of how commons can fail internally than of how they can be attacked from outside.)
      Setting history aside, Elinor Ostrom’s study of the commons (“common pool resources”) again shows how commons institutions arise in concert with private property and communal self-governance, and that these can work well even in cases where we might expect tragedy. Canada’s east coast fisheries are one example where the sustainable management of shared resources failed when commons institutions were dismantled. And the communities suffered.

      1. Not every design is urban. Some malls, like this one, is sub-urban or ex-urban or rural.
        Flat spacious Florida with acres and acres of swamp land is different than highly fertile farmland or very valuable land such as what we find in Metrovan.
        Not every space is public. Private owners of lands have the right to restrict who can come in. I know that some folks don;t like this, but that is how the world works.
        Not everyone can tent in your living room either hat you carefully decorated, furnished and painted. Same as this mall. Just a bit bigger !

  3. This could lead to some interesting discussions, Geof.
    I am often tempted to capitalize Commons because it implies a natural social justice. I saw my mother struggle with visiting malls because she was disabled over her final dozen years. How much easier would it have been for her if the gigantic mall she favoured was in fact a mixed use community with a strong public realm. It would have been liberating for her to simply take an elevator from her care facility to an enclosed public pedestrian street with 200 stores branching off. Add a rapid transit hub station and the entire city would be her oyster.
    This is why I find the obsession for spectacles like the above mall simply sad.

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