Miami, Jun 20: After years of debate, county commissioners in Florida have finally approved the construction of a $4 billion, gigantic, retail and entertainment complex — the American Dream Miami mega-mall, that not only promises to be America’s biggest mall, but would also attract an estimated 30 million tourist annually, and could generate employment for up to 25,000 people.

At a time when mega malls are struggling to stay financially viable amidst the onslaught of e-commerce business, planning America’s most expensive mall ever is indeed a bold move.

However, the Canada-based developers Triple Five are not calling it a mall. In fact, they stressed that they’re not building a mall.

“We’re not in the mall business,” said Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five. “This is a park that is meant to compete with the best parks in America.”

Indeed, matching its outlandish budget, the complex would include theme-park attractions such as an indoor ski slope, ice-climbing wall, submarine lake – where guests could enter a plexiglass submarine and descend underwater, skating rink, and water park, along with 2,000 hotel rooms, and hundreds of retail shops and restaurants.

Developers have understood that in the world of e-commerce, mega malls cannot survive simply by filling their hundreds of stores with clothes and electronics, which people can buy online more conveniently.

Rather, malls have to transform themselves into social spaces, where people can get experiences they cannot get online.

So, increasingly, malls these days are filled with restaurants, pubs, gyms, theme parks, cinemas, and other kinds of services, and the American Dream Miami would be no exception.

The massive complex would be built on what is now the 174 vacant acres in unincorporated northwest Miami-Dade, two miles south of the Broward County border, though, only a few miles away from the environmentally sensitive Everglades.

Environmental groups have already raised concerns that the proposed mall is too close to the Everglades, and can complicate the region’s drinking water problems.

Supporters of the project, however, are not taking any chances, and promise that developers will follow environmental rules meant to protect the Everglades, and pay for measures to address traffic concerns of local citizens.

Environmental clearances, however, might not be the only stumble in its way. The proposed mall is also facing a stiff challenge from local mall owners, who believe, perhaps rightly, that apart from the 30 million estimated tourists annually, the mega mall might also suck away all the local customers.

A group of mall owners including Simon Property Group , Taubman Centers Inc. and GGP Inc., have already lobbied county officials to prevent Triple Five’s project from being funded or subsidized by taxpayer dollars, WSJ reported.

Triple Five says it isn’t planning on subsidies for the Miami project. “American Dream Miami will be built by private dollars,” said  Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami-based attorney representing Triple Five.

The project is also facing some opposition from local citizens, some of whom are now supporting t-shirts that read “No Megamall, No Traffic” and “Say No to the American Nightmare Mall.”

Supporters of the project, however, point out that the project would generate employment for nearly 25,000 people that could have an impact on the entire South Florida region.