New Jersey’s never-ending mall project
Over a decade in the making, American Dream Meadowlands looks to a 2019 opening (fingers crossed)
Future tenants of the beleaguered American Dream Meadowlands mall will have to wait a little longer before they can start taking charge cards from the fashionistas and families the mall operators hope will flock to the New Jersey retail project.
In December, Triple Five — the Canadian developer of the long-delayed project — said in a press release the mall would open in the fall of 2018. At the time, there had been signs of progress. In September, Triple Five and Nickelodeon announced that an 8.5-acre Nickelodeon Universe theme park, with rides and attractions based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob SquarePants and other network properties, would be opening at the 90-acre site, making it “the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere.”
But at the end of the year, construction was suspended at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in Bergen County. Triple Five had hoped to raise the $2.7 billion needed to complete construction through private financing and a $1.15 billion bond issue through the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. No such luck. Attempts to reach the company for comment were unsuccessful.
It is possible the project is now becoming unstuck. In early April, Triple Five Senior Vice President Sandi Danick said at an industry event that the company’s lender had released funds for construction to resume. She declined to comment further. Sources close to the deal said the mall is now supposed to open for business in early 2019.
Also in April, KidZania USA announced that its 80,000-square-foot experiential learning center for children, focused on introducing them to the world of work, is set to open at the American Dream in 2019. “We picked this location because of its size,” says Gregory Knoop, chief development officer of KidZania USA, who also cited the diversity of the tenant mix and the opportunity for parents to shop while their kids are playing.
Delays in construction have frustrated local communities. But some observers remain optimistic. “If it’s a consolation, I think it will do very well if you look at the demographics,” says commercial broker Jeff Chaus, owner of Chaus Realty in Hasbrouck Heights. “You’ve got such a dense population in that mile, two-mile radius.”
However, it remains to be seen what the impact of today’s rapidly declining retail sector will have on the mall.
The year the American Dream Meadowlands mall, formerly known as Xanadu, was originally supposed to open. Initiated by developers Mills Corp. and Mack-Cali Realty, the project lost momentum during the recession. Triple Five took over the project shortly after Gov. Chris Christie, who called it “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and perhaps America,” took office in 2010.
Number of jobs KidZania expects to create at its Meadowlands location. It will include a miniaturized city that is operated, governed and populated by children ages 4-12. There will be a full-size plane in the space, and “one of the major airlines will be the airline sponsor,” said Keith Rubenstein, acting CEO of E2W, KidZania’s licensee for the U.S. and Canada.
Vehicles annually that use I-95, Route 3, and Route 120, all of which intersect in the area where the mall will be located, according to Triple Five. The mall site has 33,000 parking spaces, according to its website.
Projected cost of the American Dream Meadowlands. The mall is expected to include more than 3 million square feet of shopping, entertainment and attractions in Phase One. Along with anchor tenants Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, the developers say, it will feature more than 450 retail, food and specialty shops.
Square feet designated for entertainment at the mall. Among the planned attractions: North America’s largest fully enclosed indoor DreamWorks amusement park, a 16-story Big Snow Indoor Ski & Snow Park, the Nickelodeon theme park, a 1,500-seat theater for live performances, luxury movie theaters by Cinemex, a 70,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquarium & Lego Discovery Center, an NHL-size ice rink and an 18-hole miniature golf course, among other features. Fifteen full-service restaurants are planned for the facility.
Height of the planned Observation Wheel. Twenty-six climate-controlled gondolas, each holding 15-plus guests, are expected to provide a 25-minute panoramic view of the New York City skyline.