What Ever Happened to Albertville’s “Mall of Entertainment”?
A rendering from 2016 of the proposed Mall of Entertainment.

What Ever Happened to Albertville’s “Mall of Entertainment”?

A highly touted theme park proposal appears stymied.

Ambitious plans to develop a “Mall of Entertainment” in the metro area made splashy headlines in January 2016. The vision called for creating a destination theme park with an indoor amusement park, a hotel and a water park on a site next to the Albertville Premium Outlets retail center. Front-page press reports at the time outlined plans for breaking ground that summer, with an opening in late 2017, before the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.

But more than two years later, there’s no sign that construction on the proposed project will start anytime soon; the city of Albertville has yet to receive a formal development application for the project.

Otsego-based Darkenwald Corp. leads the development team. In late January, Casey Darkenwald of landowner Darkenwald Holdings Ltd. said he was moving ahead, but provided no details.

There has been some progress. Environmental review of the project was completed last fall; the city signed off on the potential scale of the overall concept.

“The city has processed an AUAR [Alternative Urban Areawide Review] and approved it,” says Alan Brixius, Albertville’s planning director. “So we have a master plan that’s been approved.”

City documents outline two possible development scenarios on the site, identifying “Concept Plan A” as the developer’s preferred option.

It calls for 260 units of multifamily housing (180 apartments, 80 senior units), 294,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 170,000 square feet of office and medical office space. The Mall of Entertainment itself calls for a 275-room hotel, an indoor theme park, a water park and conference facilities. (Albertville is roughly halfway between Minneapolis and St. Cloud along Interstate 94.)

Initial media reports indicated that Sony Pictures Consumer Products would be involved with the project, but city documents related to the AUAR do not mention Sony.

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Gov. Mark Dayton expressed support for the plan when it was announced. In March, the governor’s office referred questions to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. DEED spokesman Shane Delaney says that the agency’s economic development staff had no information.