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American Dream Meadowlands Remains Set for Spring 2019 Debut

Developer Triple Five Updates NJ Business Community on the Long-Stalled Project
May 9, 2018

Construction continues at the American Dream Meadowlands retail and entertainment site, though developers say the project could deliver soon.
Credit: Triple Five Worldwide

Long-awaited and long-delayed American Dream Meadowlands, a multi-billion dollar entertainment and retail complex being built in the Meadowlands, is on target to open a year from now and could rival the success of the iconic Mall of America in Minneapolis, executives from the Canadian developer of both projects said Wednesday.

Two officials from Triple Five, based in Edmonton, Canada, offered an update about American Dream Meadowlands, which is under construction on a site adjacent to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, NJ, at a luncheon. About 400 people attended the presentation, held as part of the Bergen Business Expo at The Venetian catering hall in Garfield, NJ.

"It’s definitely been a long, long, long, long road," said Paul Ghermezian, Triple Five’s chief operating officer, prompting laughter in the audience.

What is now called American Dream, and was once named Xanadu, has been in the works for more than a dozen years, with several developers trying, and failing, to get the project off the ground. But it appears that Triple Five is about to finally pull off that feat, with Tony Armlin, Triple Five senior vice president of development and construction, saying that the project – with its nearly 3 million-square-foot retail component, as well a water park and amusement park – is slated to have its grand opening next spring, in March or April 2019.

Construction is about 60 percent complete, with more than $1.62 billion of the project’s $2.87 billion in financing already spent, according to Armlin. Right now there are about 1,500 workers on the site, and by September that number will probably rise to 3,000, with shifts running 24/7, he said. Triple Five is spending about $3 million a day on the work, he added.

Even as Triple Five is completing its East Rutherford development, it is looking to build a similar mixed-use complex, American Dream Miami, in Florida.

American Dream Meadowlands will be an economic engine for not only North Jersey but for the entire East Coast, according to Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, who introduced Ghermezian at the luncheon. The project will draw millions of visitors a year, and be a destination that could keep tourists in the region for days, Tedesco said.

Triple Five expects 16,000 to 17,000 people to be employed at American Dream, and estimates that the development will generate $148 million a year in taxes for New Jersey.

Triple Five, a Ghermezian family business, enjoyed great success with its retail mega-developments including Mall of America, roughly 20 years old, and the 30-year-old West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada.

Some critics have been skeptical of American Dream’s prospects because of its many setbacks and the apocalypse that the retail industry is undergoing.

Ghermezian said American Dream is very different from those two projects, in that it is not just a shopping mall but seeks to offer "an experiential experience."

Triple Five’s malls in Minneapolis and Edmonton are both approximately 80 percent retail space and 20 percent entertainment, according to Ghermezian. In contrast, 55 percent of American Dream’s space is dedicated to entertainment and only 45 percent to retail, he noted.

"We are much more like Disney than we are like a retail shopping center," Armlin said.

And unlike the two earlier malls, American Dream is near a huge city, less than five miles from Manhattan, which boosts its potential to draw visitors, he said. West Edmonton Mall hosts about 30 million visitors a year, pulling from a metro trading area of 1 million people, and Mall of America has 40 million visitors, from a trading area of 3 million people.

Triple Five is projecting that American Dream will attract 40 million annually, even though it is in a 25 million-person trade area that also has more than 50 million visitors a year, according to Ghermezian.

"So when we talk about our tourist numbers and what we plan and we want to achieve here, I think we’re being quite conservative," he said.

On the entertainment side, American Dream will offer events on a near-daily basis. The site will also feature:

» A Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park with three roller coasters, including one with one of the steepest inclines in the nation;

» A permanent venue for Cirque de Soleil, which will perform there;

» DreamWorks Waterpark, one of the largest indoor water parks in the world, 30 percent bigger than the one at the Edmonton mall;

» A National Hockey League-sized skating rink;

» Big Snow America, an indoor ski and snowboard slope and chalet;

» An observation Ferris wheel, similar to the London Eye, with a view of the Manhattan skyline;

» A Sealife aquarium; and

» A 12-screen, upscale Cinemex movie theater with 'sky box' private viewing rooms.

Some 80 percent of American Dream’s space is now leased, and Triple Five is picky about its more than 400 retail tenants, according to Ghermezian. It wanted "flagship retail" that is "required to have an experience," something unique and special, be it regarding things like their products or their build-out, he said.

Retail anchors include a Lord & Taylor and what will be New Jersey’s only Saks Fifth Avenue, after the chain closed locations at The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack and the Short Hills Mall.

The Sak’s will be a "New Age store," according to Ghermezian. "There’s stuff in there that blows your mind."

American Dream’s luxury retail wing will feature a Hermes flagship store, a concierge, a personal shopping service and a champagne and caviar bar, Ghermezian added.

The Meadowlands complex will also offer visitors a variety of culinary offerings, including an area with 15 full-service restaurants, a grab-and-go food court, a food hall and the "first-ever kosher food court," according to Ghermezian.

A later phase of American Dream includes construction of a hotel on-site, which Ghermezian said will help neighboring hospitality businesses. Hotels at Mall of America create a spillover to nearby hotels, and average room rates rise in the market, according to Ghermezian.

Linda Moss, Northern New Jersey Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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