BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Mall of America is asking for a lifeline from the state of Minnesota to weather the financial storm brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The mall approached lawmakers in the past two weeks about borrowing from its tax-incremental financing account, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told reporters Friday morning. Gazelka said the state should provide help because mall owner Triple Five Group is not asking for "free money" but to borrow money to "get through this crisis."
Last month, only 5 percent of the mall's rents came in, Gazelka said. The mall has been closed since late mid-March because of a state-mandated shutdown. It plans to reopen June 1.
"There is virtually no money coming in, but they still have all their debt obligations," said Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake.
A Mall of America spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Bloomington property taxes flow into the TIF account, which is meant for public infrastructure related to the mall's future development.
It's unclear how much money the mall's owners want to take. State Rep. Mike Howard, DFL-Richfield, said the mall owners want to borrow about $80 million from the account.
Gazelka said there's no bill draft and significant opposition. Both the city of Bloomington and the city's state legislative delegation oppose the plan.
"This proposal came forward without the city of Bloomington being included in its development, and Triple Five has not provided sufficient information that would lead me to believe this loan would be a meaningful way to help long-term viability of the mall," said state Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington.
Howard, who represents the district adjacent to the mall's property, gave a more blunt assessment of the proposal from the Edmonton, Canada-based company.
"It is the wrong move for the legislature to bail out a billionaire owner – a Canadian billionaire owner – of the Mall of America, while so many Minnesotans and small businesses are suffering," Howard said.
Gov. Tim Walz said his administration was talking with the city of Bloomington and local lawmakers about the proposal.
"In concept, I’m certainly willing to hear them on this," Walz told reporters at a news conference. "I do acknowledge the fact, all our businesses, we need to figure out (how to help). But when you have one that has that big a draw both nationally and internationally, there’s an impact it has tax-wise not just for the city of Bloomington but for the state."
The deadline for legislation in Minnesota's regular session is Sunday.
The mall's June 1 restart will include only retail stores. Attractions and restaurants will remain closed, a mall spokesman said Thursday.