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Burnsville Center moves ahead with redevelopment to keep up with the future of malls

Consumer habits are changing -- and malls like Burnsville Center are adjusting.

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — The Burnsville Center is looking toward the future. 

After receiving city council approval last month to divide the property, mall ownership is now planning to sell off parts of the land to new potential buyers, setting in motion a redevelopment plan that could surround the mall with housing, office space, restaurants and perhaps even a hotel.

"We are really hopeful that this leads to next steps in the Center Village Vision that the city adopted," Burnsville Assistant Community Development Director Regina Dean said. "This will really just bring more opportunity for more jobs, more employment, more areas for entertainment, recreation."

Dean said the city envisions most of the mall remaining intact. However, with the plan to divide up the land now approved, new developers can come in and build on the mall's vast parking lot space.

Although future tenants remain a mystery, the mall property offers a prime location just off Interstate 35W. South of the Minnesota River, Dean said she doesn't know of any larger indoor mall from here to the Iowa border.

Credit: KARE 11
Burnsville Center's redevelopment plan will keep the mall intact, while allowing new developers to build on existing parking lot space.

"We're not getting rid of the mall; we're adding to the mall. The mall will remain in the vision. We're just hoping to enhance the area and foster that opportunity for developers to come in and really fill in those parking spaces with new development," Dean said. "We want to see those cranes on site as soon as we can."

Burnsville Center is not the first in the Twin Cities to try something new. 

Rosedale Center, for example, continues to move forward with mixed-use redevelopment plans, and Southdale Center has reinvented itself with a new Life Time Fitness.

"It's the latest chapter in a long, long history that's been unfolding over the last 10 years," said George John, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "They're all trying different things, from more experiential stores like yoga classes and swim schools, to residential, to grocery stores, so everybody is trying something a little bit different."

John does not want to overstate the impact of online shopping — in fact, he points to government data that shows e-commerce sales made up only 13.3 percent of total retail sales in the second quarter of 2021. However, he said that the old strategy for malls to rely on anchor department stores clearly does not work anymore.

"They're struggling, and there's lots of reasons for it. Our shopping habits have changed," John said. "The notion of hanging out at the mall has changed, and all of that, just broke that particular model. Now, what happens, is you've got to find something else."