A Mall in the Grand Canyon? Activists Trying to Stop Billion-Dollar Development


The Grand Canyon — the latest mega-mall location? (Photo: Thinkstock)

It almost sounds like a joke — a mall in the Grand Canyon? But a company called Developers Confluence Partners has proposed building a $1 billion entertainment complex on the east rim of the Grand Canyon that has created an uproar.

Called the Grand Canyon Escalade, the developers refer to the project as a “tourism destination development” that will include shopping, an IMAX theater, multiple hotels, and an RV park. It’s all centered around a Gondola Tramway, designed to take travelers “from the rim of the Grand Canyon to an elevated Riverwalk on the Canyon floor.”

An action group called Sum Of Us is having none of it and has started an online petition to fight the development, which has reached 90,000 supporters — 10,000 people away from its 100,000 goal. According to the petition, the tram is being built in a “sacred place for the Navajo.“

But members of the local Navajo Nation support the development, claiming that it will create jobs — and even plan to put $65 million toward infrastructure surrounding the project, NBC News reported.

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A rendering of where the tramway will be located in the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Grand Canyon Escalade)

The Grand Canyon Escalade will be visible from six of the seven eastern viewpoints in the National Park,” according to the developers, who also estimate that they will sell 1.5 to 2 million annual tram tickets.


What the proposed tram cars will look like (Photo: Grand Canyon Escalade)

This is not the first controversial development in the Grand Canyon. In 2007, the Skywalk — a glass-floor walkway cantilevered over the canyon — opened, despite public concern. The $30 million attraction is located on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, just west of Grand Canyon Village.

And a group of Italian developers have plans to create a massive development with houses and retail at the entrance to the park called Tusayan. The National Park Service has called both Tusayan and the Grand Canyon Escalade a threat to the Grand Canyon. “They are serious threats to the future of the park,” said park Supt. Dave Uberuaga told the Los Angeles Times. “When you have that size and scope of potential development that close to the park, it will impact our visitor experience.”

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The Skywalk. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Grand Canyon Escalade developers compare the new development to the Skywalk, arguing that it demonstrates a “‘new visitor’ market growth potential for an innovative, safe, affordable, and once-in-a-lifetime excursion.”

And R. Lamar Whitmer, a developer involved in the Escalade, told the New York Times: “It’s crazy to say that a tram and an 1,100-foot walkway is going to scar the Grand Canyon in any way. If anything, it will allow people to experience the canyon in a sensitive, respectful way.”

But if Sum Of Us has its way, the Grand Canyon will remain mega-mall free.

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