No Outlet: A Review of Twin Cities Premium Outlets

Last year, to much fanfare, Twin Cities Premium Outlets were opened. While the center has recently encountered some controversy about the atrocious treatment of black shoppers, this post is about the design (recognizing its isolating design and nature as private property may have some relationship about how shop managers and police think about the presence of others).

Aerial of Twin Cities Premiums Outlets from Google Maps.

Aerial of Twin Cities Premiums Outlets from Google Maps.

 

Located in Eagan, on the Red Line (Cedar Grove Station), it is just a short transit hop from the Mall of America, and a shorter drive, at the intersection of Cedar Avenue (Highway 77) and Sibley Memorial Highway (Highway 13). With a “race track” design, the expectation is users will flow through the center in a circular pattern and return where they started, shopping both sides of the “street” simultaneously. As the first new mall in 13 years, it represents the last gasp of traditional bricks and mortar retail before the full onslaught of online shopping decimates what is left.

Twin Cities Premium Outlets:  Source: http://www.premiumoutlets.com/pdfs/twincities.pdf

Twin Cities Premium Outlets: Source:

Some photos are attached. I suppose the traffic is suppressed since this was a Sunday in February, though the stores were all open, and the temperature was above average. The Google maps shows a fairly full surface parking lot (though the top deck of the “garage” (you know, they meant “ramp”, even though the sign says “Garage” and the map says “Deck”) was largely empty. The site apparently has 3000 parking spaces (doesn’t look like it).

Slippery when wet. Imagine.

Slippery when wet. Imagine.

Twin Cities Premium Outlets, a plaza in the snow.

Twin Cities Premium Outlets, a plaza in the snow.

A color coded guide. It would be more effective if they named the streets.

A color coded guide. It would be more effective if they named the streets.

A street through the center enters a covered but not climate controlled section. Feel the wind.

A street through the center enters a covered but not climate controlled section. Feel the wind.

An open plaza faces the parking ramp.

An open plaza faces the parking ramp.

Cedar Grove Parking Garage is a few short steps (the Transit Center is farther away)

Cedar Grove Parking Garage is a few short steps (the Transit Center is farther away)

 

The food court has a wide variety of specialty vendors

The food court has a wide variety of specialty vendors

 

I do not understand the appeal of outdoor shopping in February in Minnesota. While there is a covered section, it is not enclosed, and thus remains cold. This design has many of the worst features of a shopping mall:

  • Parking (and transit)) far from the shops, the transit center is about 1000 feet (almost 1/4 mile) from the first store.
  • A finite space without any opportunity for discovery or serendipity, I really cannot accidentally leave the site. There are anchors at the end of the internal streets, foreclosing opportunities to extend the internal grid onto the surface parking. Is it really too much to consider the possibility you might want to expand this center without tearing down functional buildings and thus would have built an extensible grid.
  • Mostly ubiquitous chain stores (or the outlet versions thereof) with almost nothing local or unique.
  • Parking acting as a barrier to integration of the mall shops with the rest of the community. It could not have been difficult to have the parking garage back onto the highway so the stores could integrate with the neighborhood. Instead it is a fortress. I realize this might have cost some visibility from the highway from the shops themselves, but really, that’s what signs are for. Existing surface streets should have established the alignment of the pedestrian streets in the mall

without the best:

  • Climate control. This is not California, people. Has no one learned anything from the AMC Rosedale debacle.

It does of course prohibit cars on shopping streets, which is something we can only dream of in actual cities, and is an improvement over the fake Main Streets of places like the Shoppes Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove (which isn’t even Main Street).

 

There are plans to reconfigure the Cedar Grove Transit Station on the Red Line so that it will an on-line station, saving time for users (though potentially making it even farther from the Mall) [Forum Discussion]. It apparently serves 200 employees and shoppers at the center per day. Notably there has not been much crime at the center, with 630 calls for service since its opening (reported Jan 20), or about 3 calls per day .

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16 Responses to No Outlet: A Review of Twin Cities Premium Outlets

  1. Ben Ross March 30, 2015 at 7:14 am #

    “Parking ramp” is a regionalism. A google search indicates it is used in Minnesota, Iowa and central and western Wisconsin, plus Buffalo (where I ran into it as standard usage) and Grand Rapids.

    Elsewhere, what you call a ramp is a parking garage. The ramp is the slanted slab of concrete you drive on inside the garage to get from one level to the next.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig March 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      In Ben’s defense, he’s not from around here, and so probably isn’t familiar with the regional vernacular (including your reference of “pop”…they call it something else out East).

  2. Froggie March 30, 2015 at 7:17 am #

    Wasted opportunity, IMO.

  3. Mike Hicks March 30, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    There are around 3000 parking spaces on the site, though getting to that number requires counting the overflow lots on either side of the parking structure (the two total up to around 700 spaces, if cars can be packed as tightly as on the paved lots). I think they’re still unpaved, but I didn’t pay close attention to them when I stopped by the mall this past Friday.

    The “parking deck” name can probably be explained by the fact that it’s only a two-story structure with one level above ground. It’s designed to allow a third level to be added later if needed.

    It was pretty quiet when I went. I rarely shop for clothes, so I don’t really enjoy going to places that are so heavily skewed to that market. I got a slice of pizza at the food court (the only enclosed part of the mall aside from the shops themselves and the access hallways for restrooms/etc.) then left fairly quickly afterward.

    Hopefully the west-side parking lots can be developed someday. There’s also room reserved in front of the parking structure for a few buildings. But I agree — it would have been better to push the structure toward Highway 13. The whole site should have been set up with a much more mixed-use design too.

    • Mike Hicks March 30, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      Oh also, surprisingly, this is across the street from a mixed-use development of the past, Cedarvale. That one isn’t very well designed, but it shows how simple a mixed-use site can be.

  4. Keith Morris March 30, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    It says something that private developments like this are creating carless streets while cities like Minneapolis can only dream of doing the sams and are OK with the likes of Lake Street.

    Really though, parts of our city have become pale versions of this development: they’re merely walkable suburbs. Chain filled Uptown around Hennepin and Lake or 50th and France mainly offer upscale chains. What’s “city” about them?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller March 30, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      Scale and pedestrians?

      • Keith Morris March 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

        This outlet does it better though: no monstrous one-way moats to cross to reach a chain retailer like you do with Lake and Lagoon. So Twin Cities Premium Outlets is the urban standard which places like Uptown should aspire to replicate.

    • Aaron Berger March 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      The upscale shopping destinations in every big city have become that way. Like it or not, people vote with their dollars. At Lake and Hennepin, there’s nothing magic about North Face and Columbia and Victoria’s Secret and Crate and Barrel, but apparently they do enough business to pay the rent. There are plenty of small local retailers a half mile east and a half mile north.

      As for 50th and France, I agree that it is stunning to find corporate conformity there…

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini March 31, 2015 at 8:34 am #

      If we don’t like big box retailers & chains because they typically take advantage of major auto-oriented place subsidies, fine. When a Victoria’s Secret or whatever is located in a walkable environment with most of the urban details (fronting the sidewalk, transit, on-street parking, etc), we can’t really complain. I agree Lake, Hennepin, and Lagoon need fixing. We can work on that. But I bet a much higher share of people shopping/eating in Uptown arrive by foot/bike/transit than any non-core city shopping district, including the Premium Outlets.

      Besides, aren’t there lots of non-chains right in Uptown (or *very* close)? Off the top of my head: Magers & Quinn, Amazing Thailand, Lucia’s, The Republic, Mesa Pizza, & Stella’s are non-chains right in the core (most expensive) part of Uptown. You don’t have to go very far up/down Hennepin or west on Lake to hit other dense clusters of small/local businesses.

  5. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary March 30, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    First new mall in 13 years? Shops at West End — a similar, if slightly better, format — opened in 2008.

    I mostly agree with the review, but disagree about the role of driving and parking areas within the mall. I actually think this is one of the features that makes it feel the most authentic as a main street (at least in an American context). One of my gripes about West End is that it has so little parallel parking on West End Boulevard that that street parking doesn’t become a functional part of the “street” or the feel of the area.

    Perhaps this is also just by association. It seems that no-car central spines are associated with sprawling lots all around. One of my least favorite examples of this is Town Center at Corte Madera, just across the freeway from The Village at Corte Madera. Of course, you can walk to neither Town Center nor Village easily, and certainly not between the two.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig March 30, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

      We’re [a href=”https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=44.023372,-71.112614&spn=0.002388,0.005681&t=h&z=18″>not immune to these in New England, either…

      • Edward March 31, 2015 at 11:37 am #

        That first link is frightening. After experiencing that in person I’d be tempted to calm my frazzled nerves at the nearby Anheiser-Busch Brewery Tour.

  6. Camden April 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    We went there last weekend and felt this new mall was intelligently setup. It is far superior to the sprawling mess that has become the Albertville outlets. For the majority of months of the year being outside is pleasant, so Im glad they went with the Califorina stye design. This new outlet mall is very similar in style to the Galleria in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles which I visited in January. I like this new outlet mall design even more than the semi-walkable Shopps at Arbor Lakes. It is much more concise and to the point…creating a landscape of commercialism specifically designed to maximize profits.

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