An upstate New York mall is expanding to become one of the largest in the United States and its operators are hoping new looser rules for cross-border shopping will help draw more people from Ontario and Quebec.

Starting today, Canadians returning from a 24-hour trip can spend $200 at the duty-free shop, four times the current $50 limit. For a 48-hour absence, shoppers can legally cross the border with $800 worth of goods, double the current limit. The changes were made as part of the 2012 federal budget.

Canadians already spend about $60 million annually at the Carousel Center in Syracuse, N.Y., a huge shopping complex at about 1.5 million square feet.


Danica Kaltaler of the Syracuse Visitors Bureau frequently visits events in Ontario to promote Syracuse. (Evan Dyer/CBC)

But the shopping complex is rebranding itself as Destiny USA and undergoing a massive 850,000-square-foot expansion with 265 different branded shops, an IMAX theatre, a go-cart racing track, a bowling alley and a nightclub.

The operators will open the newly enlarged mall in August. 

They expect almost 30 million annual visits, making it the second-most visited mall in the United States after the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minn.

Canadians are big part of business

Canadian shoppers are a big part of the mall's business, according to mall spokesman David Aitken, accounting for about 12 to 15 per cent of all expenditures.

Cross-border shoppers are highly desirable for mall operators because they are people who come motivated to buy. While the average U.S. mall visitor spends $105 a trip, the Carousel Center shopper spends $151 and spends on average an extra hour shopping, according to mall management.

Canadian malls have responded to the challenge posed by increased cross-border competition by expanding their operations as well.

The Bayshore Shopping Centre in Ottawa is adding an additional 160,000 square feet to a complex that is already 700,000 square feet in size.

"If we're going to lose something to someone else, it won't be without a fight," said mall general manager Denis Pelletier.

Both malls are making an effort to be environmentally friendly, with both going for high levels of LEED certification, which requires a great deal of effort in recycling. The mall in Syracuse, for example, will actually collect rain off its roof and use only that for all purposes except drinking water.