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Mall of America getting even bigger with expansion kick-off

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Minnesota's Mall of America officially kicked off its long-awaited Phase II expansion Tuesday, unveiling plans for a new hotel, office tower and more retail space.

The 22-year-old suburban Minneapolis shopping mall -- already the one the biggest in the United States with more than 520 stores -- has had expansion plans on the drawing boards for years, with various concepts coming and going.

Last year the Minnesota Legislature approved a $250 million tax break for the project and Tuesday's "groundbreaking" announcement made it official. A 342-room JW Marriott luxury hotel, a new office tower, new levels of retail space and underground parking will be included in the expansion, to be completed by August 2015, the MOA said in a blog post.

"Twenty years ago, my family had a dream, a dream called Mall of America," Paul Ghermezian, chief operating officer of mall owner Triple Five Worldwide, said at a ceremony marking the occasion. "And with your help, we got it done. It's beyond successful.

"This expansion is a continuation of that dream and I can't wait for the next chapter and look forward to working with all of you to get it done again."

The ceremonies were attended by MOA officials, members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community -- who are helping to fund the project -- general contractor Mortenson Construction, leaders of the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Minn., where the mall is located, as well as other state and local dignitaries.

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