Miami mall aims to be tourist hot spot


MIAMI -- Developers for the Dolphin Mall, which is due to open early next year west of Miami Airport, aim to make the shopping complex one of Greater Miami's largest tourist attractions.

Their plans include operating shuttles between the facility and the airport, the Port of Miami and major area hotels.

"We're an attraction like Disney and everybody else [that] caters to tourists," said Dolphin general manager Barbara Kreuser, who said that 40% of the mall's business is expected to come from travelers.

The 1.4-million-square-foot regional mall, which is due to open in March, will be one of the largest in South Florida and Greater Miami's largest value/entertainment shopping facility, she said.

The mall, whose construction is said to be on schedule, is situated five miles west of the airport at the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and the Dolphin Expressway.

The mall is less than a seven-minute drive from the airport on the Dolphin Expressway and about a 20-minute drive from the Port of Miami and Miami Beach.

Kreuser, who said that the mall is in the process of appointing a director of tourism, said that plans call for the mall to provide a facility at which visitors can check their baggage.

"We are talking to shuttle companies," she said, "because we think shuttle service is extremely important from the airport and cruiseport -- and even more so from hotels."

She said that attracting cruise visitors, in particular, is a high priority, adding: "We definitely need partnerships with the cruise lines.

"We don't want passengers twiddling their thumbs (while waiting for a plane). We want them shopping in Miami-Dade County."

She said the company plans to set up large lockers that can accommodate cruise passengers with a lot of luggage. The mall is a joint project of Taubman Centers Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Swerdlow Real Estate Group of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Taubman, which owns or operates 27 malls and shopping centers in 12 states, already manages the Falls here, a fashionable shopping complex in South Miami that heavily promotes tourist patronage.

"Our company is strongly involved in tourism," said Karen MacDonald, Taubman's director of communications.

She claimed, for example, that the company's Woodfield mall in Schaumberg, Ill., near O'Hare Airport, is the largest tourist attraction in Illinois, with 27 million tourist visitors annually.

The company's Cherry Creek mall in Denver, she added, is the top tourism attraction in that city.

Explaining the desirability of traveler business for shopping centers, MacDonald said: "Travelers have a little more money in their pockets and are a little bit freer with it."

The Dolphin Mall will have an unusual "race track" shape, with a two-thirds-of-a-mile walking path encircling the facility and passing every store.

Eight other walkways offer short cuts to individual retailers in the mall's three main theme areas.

A total of 17 anchors include Linens 'n' Things, Old Navy, Oshman's SuperSports USA, Mars Music, Marshall's, Burlington Coat Factory and Off 5th -- Saks Fifth Avenue.

In addition, a 400,000-square-foot entertainment area will feature dining and live entertainment.

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