Ever since I started my new job in Edina I’ve been hearing and thinking about the Southdale Center shopping mall. Most of what I’ve been hearing has been sad. There is a palpable sadness in the air that Southdale just isn’t what it used to be. Most of what I’ve been thinking about, however, is hopeful. There is also a sense of hope in the air that maybe Southdale is about to take a turn for the better.
Last week the Edina City Council met with representatives from Simon Property Group, (the owners of Southdale) to discuss the future of the mall. Simon has a plan for making significant improvements to the mall this summer. Some of the improvements are directly related to the conversion of the former Mervyn’s retail space into new retail space for Herberger’s. Some of the improvements are just to make the mall a better place for shoppers to shop, including moving the current food court down to the area outside of J. C. Penney. I think that people are going to like that one.
Part of the Council’s discussion with Simon was about what role the City of Edina might play in the improvement of Southdale. Simon has asked the City for financial assistance in the amount of about $5.3 million dollars. The City Council did not say no. They asked a lot of questions. They made some statements. But they didn’t say no.
They directed City staff to continue talking to Simon representatives to develop the general proposal in more detail. Simon representatives are talking to their corporate leaders in Indianapolis about what their next steps might be. All in all, it was a good meeting. Nobody said no to anything yet, which to me means anything might still happen.
Because Southdale is so much a part of Edina’s identity, it has a unique place among the many places that make up this city. So in that sense, anyone and everyone in the community might have a thing or two to say about how the City works its way through this puzzle: How does the City facilitate the improvement of Southdale Center?
One way that you can help answer that question is by sharing your ideas and suggestions with me and the City Council here on this new Southdale Center Economic Development blogsite. The site will be an online resource area for Edina residents to keep informed about this issue as it develops. It’s likely we’ll have a variety of documents from Simon and we’ll post them all here, along with links to any city-related meeting agendas, minutes, video clips, etc. on the issue.
I’m hoping it will also develop into a participation hub where Edina residents can interact in various ways with each other and with community leaders about the issue. We’ll give you plenty of notice here in the blog about the methods and tools that we’ll use for participation.
Edina’s most valuable asset is the collective brain power of its residents. This new online initiative hopes to harness that to help accomplish an important community good: the rebirth of this country’s original shopping mall, Southdale Center.