I was at the Annual Meeting out in Minneapolis last week. Like the year before they had some models set up of upcoming locations. So, some thoughts. . .South Coast Plaza - a nice cozy 15,000 square feet location. All of the others will be at least 20,000 square feet so let's hope occupancy costs here will be minimal. The mall itself is actually a few miles south of Anaheim (which is quite aways south from L.A. proper). So even with the eventual Disneyland unit come 2001 at the new California Adventure park there is ample room for one up in the norther Beverly Hills, Burbank, Hollywood,Downtown L.A. region. Downtown Chicago - Whether it was city regulations that wouldn't allow an erupting volcano, or simply what the winter freeze would do to the steam eruptions and cascading waterfalls, this one will have a huge Cha! Cha! on top. That's the little green tree frog character. You know, the one on the web page plugging the Recipes. Well, he won't be little, he'll be huge and on top of the roof. From what I was told he won't move, red lasers won't be shooting from his eyes, he'll just be a stationary fellow. It looks nice. With the limited seating it's quite possible, given the huge cost to build this one, that it might be the worst in terms of return on investment, but it should still do quite well. While the model has a Habitat it will no doubt be for the fish. A bigger concern than the birds is where guests will wait over the winter if the waitsget too long. A desirable problem, but something the company seemed to still be working on. With the huge investment in the place, hopefully they can come up with some unique ways to make the retail area livable for that long.MGM Grand - This one will be a beauty. Like Chicago, two levels of seating. The first floor will have the retail area, the mushroom bar and about 100 seats, with another 350 or so upstairs. They are calling Downtown Chicago an icon unit, not this one, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one outgrossed Chitown. As noted before the Vegas Strip foot traffic will be amazing. It's fitting that this one was near where the old Wizard of Oz Emerald City exhibit used to be because this one has the brains, heart and courage to blow Toto away.Aventura - The last of the models and this one has something new -- a bar on both levels. It's interesting, the dual bar being a Planet Hollywood kind of thing. London - This one will open in a month and from the outside, well, it might as well be Harrod's or Marks & Spencers. The signage is subtle here, fittingly classy. They just had a drawing of the outside, but I believe this one may actually have three levels. But, from the outside, it looks just like any other London store.Cancun - I had given up hope for this one looking impressive. I mean, with 200 seats or so, despite the utmost respect for ECE, I figured they would water this down. No way, this one is beautiful. It looks like an Aztec ruin, with stone (probably faux) blocks. Atop, steam! This is not your Disney volcano by any stretch of the imagination, but a smaller smoke-emitting one. My passpost's looking for a stamp and this one looks worth the trip.Disney's Animal Kingdom - Unlike the volcano theme at the Disney Village location this one is water-themed. No towering volcano but a huge wall of rippling waterfalls. It looks nicer than it sounds. It's lush and will do quite well. So, get your breakfast forks ready for some Bamba Banana Stuffed French Toast. Rick
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