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American Dream Meadowlands (ADM) is a retail and entertainment complex under construction in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States that is planned to contain over 500 stores,[3] and which is expected to open October 25, 2019.[1]

American Dream Meadowlands
American Dream Meadowlands logo
Indoor ski slope at American Dream in Meadowlands.jpg
Ski slope
LocationMeadowlands Sports Complex, East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States
Coordinates40°48′36″N 74°04′08″W / 40.810°N 74.069°W / 40.810; -74.069Coordinates: 40°48′36″N 74°04′08″W / 40.810°N 74.069°W / 40.810; -74.069
Opening dateOctober 25, 2019[1]
OwnerTriple Five Group
No. of stores and services500+
No. of anchor tenants6
Total retail floor area4,800,000 sq ft (450,000 m2)
Parking33,000 spaces[2]
Public transit accessMeadowlands station
Websitewww.americandream.com

The project was first proposed in 2003 by the Mills Corporation as the Meadowlands Xanadu. After the bankruptcy of that company in 2007, the project was taken over by Colony Capital. In May 2009, construction stalled due to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Triple Five Group announced intent to take over the mall in May 2011, and on July 31, 2013, officially gained control of the mall and the surrounding site.[4]

After a series of hand-offs, financing issues, construction delays, and legal challenges, construction stopped again in December 2016.[5][6] In late June 2017, construction had resumed, after new financing had been secured,[7][8] though the project would suffer a series of "chronically delayed" opening dates,[9] with the most recently projected opening being October 25, 2019,[1] though some retailers are predicted to open either during the holiday shopping season or early 2020.[10]

HistoryEdit

Meadowlands Mills (1994-2002)Edit

 
The exterior of the indoor ski slope in 2009

The Mills Corporation first began working on plans for a mall in the New Jersey Meadowlands in 1994. Meadowlands Mills, as it was called, would have been constructed on the Empire Tract, an area of 587 acres (238 ha) of wetlands in Carlstadt, New Jersey.[11] The tract was owned by Empire Ltd., a company which had purchased the land in 1961 and had been planning a major development since 1987.[12] The commercial development would have consisted of 2.1 million square feet (200,000 m2) of retail space, a hotel, and 1 million square feet (93,000 m2) of office space on 206 acres (83 ha) of the tract. To mitigate the heavy environmental impact, the remainder of the tract would have been converted into stormwater retention basins.[13]

After Empire and Mills announced their proposal in 1996, the project quickly became controversial and faced opposition from a variety of environmental and conservationist groups, as well as the tract's congressman, Steve Rothman. Opponents stated that the mall would have a devastating impact on the ecological health of the area, while the Mills Corporation defended its plans by arguing that the land was already devastated by pesticide usage and invasive common reeds.[13][14]

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposed the project after studying its potential environmental impact. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted its own study which contradicted the EPA's findings and stated that the project was not a threat to the Meadowlands area.[13] New Jersey governor Donald DiFrancesco announced plans to protect the area in 2001, encouraging the Mills Corporation to look at other potential sites in the region.[15] His successor, Jim McGreevey, informed Mills the following year that the state government would not provide permits for the mall, effectively ending the project as originally proposed.[16] The Empire Tract was later permanently protected by the Meadowlands Conservation Trust, which purchased it in 2005 and renamed it the Richard P. Kane Natural Area after a noted New Jersey conservationist.[11]

Meadowlands Xanadu (2002-2010)Edit

In July 2002, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) issued a request for proposal for a project in the area that was then the parking lot of the Continental Airlines Arena. The request was inspired by the Meadowlands Mills project as well as by plans to move the New Jersey Nets out of the arena, and involved significantly less environmental damage because it would be built on already developed land. The Mills Corporation retooled its earlier proposal for Meadowlands Mills to fit the new site, and partnered with Mack-Cali Realty Corporation to design Meadowlands Xanadu, a major multi-use development which would incorporate a renovated Continental Airlines Arena.[17] The name was taken from Mills Corporation's Madrid Xanadú, a shopping mall in Spain which opened in 2003.

NJSEA accepted several other proposals for developing the site. Westfield Group proposed Arena Place, an "urban village" and "town square" built around the arena. Hartz Mountain Industries and Forest City Realty Trust submitted plans for Expo Park at the Meadowlands, featuring an outlet mall, a convention center, an indoor racetrack, and three hotel buildings.[18] Triple Five Group proposed MeadowFest America, which planned an adaptive reuse of the arena to create a retail and entertainment complex.[19][20]

Other proposals focused on the project's location in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. International Speedway Corporation envisioned plans for Sports City America, a development centered around the proposed Garden State International Speedway, a NASCAR racetrack seating 80,000. A consortium that included Paul Newman, Carl Haas, and Mario Andretti proposed Liberty Speedway and Family Theme Park, combining a racetrack with an amusement park and connecting the two with a monorail.[19][21]

In February 2003, the authority's board chose Mills Corporation and Mack-Cali's plan over the other two finalists, Westfield Group and Hartz Mountain Industries.[18] The project was billed by Mills chairman and executive officer Laurence E. Siegel as "...a new standard for bringing lifestyle, recreation, sports and family entertainment offerings together in one location."[22] Ground was broken on the complex on September 29, 2004,[23] and, at the time, was expected to open two years later.[24]

In November 2006, Colony Capital purchased the project from Mills Corporation for $500 million and pushed the projected opening to 2008.[6][18][20]

By 2008, the colorfully gaudy exterior of the building, which is visible from the New Jersey Turnpike and New Jersey Route 3, began to draw criticism as an eyesore,[20] Richard Codey, president of the New Jersey State Senate at the time, called the structure "yucky-looking".[25] In 2011, then-Governor Chris Christie called it "an offense to the eyes as you drive up the turnpike" and "by far the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America."[26][27] After acquiring the project, Triple Five indicated the exterior would be repainted in a different color scheme.[28]

 
The former logo of the complex

In May 2009, construction on Xanadu, which was nearly 80% complete[29] (and whose common areas were about 88% complete), came to a halt after a subsidiary of bankrupt Lehman Brothers missed payments, causing other lenders to withdraw from the project, and lost $500 million worth of construction funding. While developers stated the mall was 70% leased,[30] it is unknown how many retailers stayed leased while the mall was delayed.

In March 2009, the retailer Cabela's announced that it did not plan to open its Meadowlands location for another year,[31] and subsequently gave "late 2010" as an estimated opening date.[32] It would later pull out of the project by November 2010, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and a halt to construction.[33]

In February 2010, Stephen Ross, owner of The Related Companies in Manhattan, stated that he could finish the project by the end of 2010, possibly with a new name and look.[34] In May 2010, the NJSEA handed the project over to the Related Companies, and the "Xanadu" name had been dropped, changing the name to "The Meadowlands".[35]

In May 2010 the project's name was shortened from "Meadowlands Xanadu" to simply "Meadowlands."[36]

On August 10, 2010, Colony Capital surrendered control of the development of the mall to five lenders. A special governor's commission on the state's gaming and entertainment industry is filed recommendations to Governor of New Jersey. Four parties were noted to be interested in redeveloping the project.[37] The Wall Street Journal on December 24, 2010, reported that Triple Five Group signed a letter of intent to invest in and finish the stalled mall.[38] Triple Five proposed that the mall be expanded to include indoor amusement and a water park. Developers cut a deal with Deutsche Bank to provide an approximately $700 million loan to finish the project.[29]

 
The complex seen from the Meadowlands Sheraton in 2009

On February 1, 2011, after a record-breaking month of snow for the area,[39] a 50 to 60-foot long section of the eastern wall had buckled and a horizontal crease was apparent on the complex's indoor ski slope. Two days later, on February 3, after workers were attempting to melt snow from the ski slope's roof, ice build-up caused the eastern wall to fail and suffer a partial collapse along an approximately 150-foot (50 m) length of roof.[40] Michael Beckerman, a spokesman for the project's lending group stated, "The Lender Group is aware of the damage to the roof caused by excessive snow and ice, but does not feel the damage affects the integrity of the structure. As such, the group has filed an insurance claim, and once the weather turns warmer, it will assess the damages and fix whatever is necessary."[41]

American Dream MeadowlandsEdit

On April 29, 2011, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority completed a deal with Triple Five Group, the owners of two of North America's largest malls: West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America,[6] who had previously proposed "MeadowFest America" for the New Jersey site in 2002, before the contract was awarded to Mills Corporation.[20] Triple Five assumed ownership of the mall and renamed it "American Dream Meadowlands", with an opening date of early 2014, to coincide with Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, just across the highway. The deal was officially announced on May 3, 2011. Among the changes to the project would an expansion to 3 million square feet, an 8.5-acre indoor glass-domed amusement park, water parks, and an ice skating rink. The ski slope would also carry over from previous iterations of the project.[42][43] In July 2012 DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg indicated that the amusement park would incorporate attractions based on that studio's properties, such as Shrek and Madagascar.[44] By May 2013, progress on the project was delayed further by financing, permitting, and a lawsuit filed by the New York Giants and New York Jets over traffic concerns.[45] Triple Five officially took ownership of the mall on July 31, 2013, with construction set to start in late August of that year, despite the lawsuit.[4] Construction officially began in November and the developer estimated it would take approximately 24 months to complete the project.[46]

In June 2012 the Giants and the Jets sought an injunction against Triple Five from resuming construction after it took over the project from the Mills Corporation, stating that the addition of amusement and water parks at the site would adversely affect traffic at MetLife stadium on days when home games were played there,[47][48] specifically 16 Sundays out of the year, the day of the week that Bergen County's Blue Law prohibits shopping, though not amusement parks.[49] The teams contended that while the mall would be closed on Sundays, the amusement park would not, which would create traffic jams on game days, when between 20,000 and 25,000 vehicles would park at the complex. Traffic studies conducted by the team estimated that 7,700 spots would be added by the project, while developers stated that it would add only 63 more cars, as local residents would be wise enough to avoid the grounds at that time, and most tourists would take the rail link to the MetLife Stadium site rather than drive.[50][51] Triple Five objected to the law's restriction because it would infringe upon their business.[49] In July 2012 Triple Five countersued for what it called an improper campaign by the teams to preserve their monopoly at the site, while dissuading potential lenders from investing.[47][48] In March 2014, the parties reached a tentative settlement, agreeing to drop their lawsuits, though specific details of the agreement were not made public.[48] On March 12, 2014 the parties reached a tentative settlement, agreeing to drop their lawsuits. Though specific details of the agreement were not made public,[46][48] the agreement allowed the long-delayed project to move forward. Construction had been ongoing since November 2013, and was expected to pick up in early 2014. Although no timetable for completion was announced, the developer originally said it would take about 24 months to complete the project once construction began.[46] That April, Triple Five released a revised design for the mall's exterior and confirmed a tentative opening date in late 2016,[52] though by December 2014, it was reported that this would only be a partial opening.[53]

In June 2015, the New Jersey Local Finance Board approved a tax-sharing plan between East Rutherford and Triple Five. In August 2015, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority reauthorized a $390 million potential tax break for the project. These steps were intended to set the stage for a sale of up to $1 billion in government bonds to raise money to complete the project in time for its new projected completion in the second half of 2017.[18]

In April 2016, a planned bond issue fell through.[54] In July 2016, construction appeared to have stopped, the developers were trying to obtain $1 billion in additional financing, and the projected completion date had slipped again, to 2018.[55] In August 2016, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority announced an $800 million bond issue intended to finance further construction of the mall.[56]

 
American Dream seen from across the Hackensack River in Secaucus, New Jersey in 2009

In September 2016, Triple Five Group announced that the indoor amusement park space would be occupied by Nickelodeon Universe,[57] which will feature two world record-holding roller coasters. The Euro-Fighter, which holds the record for the steepest roller coaster drop at 97 degrees, and is based on a model seen at two other locations in the United States. The second coaster, the Spinning Coaster, consists of four-passenger cars that spin on a vertical axis as it progresses down the coaster's track, and is the world's tallest and longest free spinning coaster,[58] at 1,600 feet. The water park is DreamWorks Water Park, which will feature attractions such as Shrek's Soggy Swamp, Kung Fu Panda Zone and Madagascar Rain Forest. The park's centerpiece will be the world's largest indoor wave pool, measuring 1.5 acres and holding 1.5 million gallons of water, and the world's second-tallest body slide, starting from a height of 142 feet and featuring a 50-foot free fall.[42] The completed American Dream will span 3 million square feet and consist of 55 percent entertainment facilities and 45 percent retail locations.[2] Entertainment venues will include nightclubs, a 26-screen movie theater and 3,000-seat performing arts theater.[43] The mall will house 450 retail shops, and more than 100 dining options, including approximately 20 full-service restaurants, a first-of-its kind kosher food hall and a 38,000 square foot gourmet food court with 18 vendors and chef demonstrations operated by the youth-driven food and culture website Munchies. The project would also include a parking lot with 33,000 spaces, an on-site bus hub and a train station. Triple Five projected 40 million people to visit the mall each year, half of whom would be drawn from the 62 million tourists who visit the tri-state area annually.[2]

Construction halts and resumes againEdit

On December 22, 2016, work on the project stopped again. Financing from the 2016 bond issue was delayed until 2017.[59] In May of that year, the developers secured $1.67 billion in construction financing from a syndicate led by JPMorgan Chase,[60] and by the following month, work had resumed.[7]

On September 25, 2018 the New Jersey Hall of Fame announced that they would be permanently moving to American Dream Meadowlands.[61] According to a June 2018 NJ.com article, the developer indicated that most of the complex was scheduled to open in early 2019, though the waterpark would open in the end of 2019,[20] with Triple Five senior vice president of development and construction Tony Amrlin specifying at a late August 2018 press conference that the project was 68% complete and would open in April 2019.[9] That November, American Dream Meadowlands Vice President of Communications Lincoln Palsgrove stated that September 2019 would be the water park's opening date.[42]

In August 2018, Triple Five revealed that H&M and Uniqlo would open stores at the mall.[62] They and a subsequently-announced tenant, Zara, represent world’s three largest retailers.[10] Subsequent details revealed that these stores would be those companies' largest mall-based flagship locations at American Dream, each with unique experiential components that evoke outdoor experiences.[63]

On March 8, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy indicated that the mall complex would open that June,[64] but on March 25, Triple 5 Group announced that the project would open in August.[65]

On March 12, 2019, Barneys New York announced that it would open a flagship store at the mall, its only one in New Jersey.[66]

On May 20, 2019, Triple Five announced that the mall's opening date had again been moved to later in the year,[67][68] and that some retailers would not open until the 2019 holiday season or early 2020. Though it did not specify which merchants these were, it did reveal that some of the mall's tenants would include Tiffany & Co., Watches of Switzerland, Dolce & Gabbana, Moncler and the experimental retailer Fourpost, which operates a store at Triple Five's other mall property, The Mall of America. Triple Five also revealed more of the complex's attractions, including the atriums, the Albero dei Sogni sculpture, and fashion fountain,[10] as well as information about the design of the common areas, which feature museum-scale surfaces that would display art from emerging and established local and international artists. These spaces are designed to be adaptable to allow rotating installations and attractions, and positioned throughout the mall in such a way that no two points of interest are more than a few minutes of walking away from each other.[69][70]

On July 3, 2019, officials from Triple Five announced that the exact opening date of the mall would be October 25.[1] Later that month, Crain's New York Business reported that the Asian-American supermarket chain H Mart would open a 35,000 square foot store at American Dream, which in addition to that chain's typical selection of traditional Asian and international food items, would feature the chain’s "Market Eatery" venue for top national and international food concepts and chefs, as well as New Jersey's first "Let Them Talk Bar and Stage" that would feature live music, craft cocktails, entertainment and weekly events. The store would staff a combined 70 to 100 full-time and part-time employees.[71]

On September 20, 2019, Triple 5 group announced that Nickelodeon Universe and the ice rink will be the only attractions opening on October 25. The Dreamworks Waterpark will be opening on November 27, 2019, and the Ski Slope will be opening on December 5, 2019.[72]

Main attractionsEdit

 
One of the complex's parking garages in 2009

American Dream consists of 55 percent entertainment facilities and 45 percent retail locations.[10][2]

GeneralEdit

  • Six distinctive grand atriums flooded with natural light. One includes an extensive garden with bird-filled aviaries and rabbit fields; another will be an entertainment hub.[10][69]
  • Albero dei Sogni – a tree-like sculpture consisting of more than 75,000 LED lights and 25,000 leaves that play music during intervals several times a day[10]
  • A 60-foot fashion fountain that can be converted into a catwalk in seconds[10]
  • Instagram moments – areas designed specifically for social media photography[10][69]
  • Museum-scale interiors displaying artwork by local and international artists[10][69]

ShoppingEdit

  • 450 retail shops[2]
  • Six anchor retail tenants with more than 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) each[73]
  • 12 major retailers (20,000 to 50,000 square feet [1,900 to 4,600 m2] each)[73]
  • 339 smaller shops (up to 20,000 square feet [1,900 m2])[73]
  • A 35,000 square foot H Mart Asian-American supermarket[71]

DiningEdit

  • More than 100 eateries[2]
  • 21 full-service restaurants[73][2]
  • 45 specialty food retailers[73]
  • 18-vendor food court, including a kosher food hall (38,000 square feet (3,500 m2))[2]

EntertainmentEdit

Observation WheelEdit

Announced in February 2008, PepsiCo agreed to pay $100 million for a 10-year sponsorship of Pepsi Globe, a London Eye-style ferris wheel built facing the New Jersey Turnpike that would measure 287 ft (87 m), and feature 26 glass enclosed, climate controlled gondolas that would take 20 people on 25-minute rides. Its planned opening was in 2009.[79][80] It would be the largest Ferris wheel in America,[81] but it drew much criticism[82] from local residents and politicians who viewed it as an eyesore,[80] and who voiced concerns about both safety and its obstruction of views of Manhattan's skyline across the Hudson River, which they feared would hurt property values and damage the image of the local communities.[83] PepsiCo eventually withdrew their sponsorship of the ferris wheel, which would no longer be branded with that company's name or logo.[20] By 2015, the ferris wheel was still being planned, but was rechristened the "Dreamview Observation Wheel,"[82][84] and would be only 235 ft (72 m) feet in diameter, though it would retain the same number of gondolas.[20]

CriticismEdit

 
The mall under construction, with MetLife Stadium under construction as well, as seen from an airplane on April 19, 2008

Opposition to the idea of building a permanent shopping center within the Meadowlands Sports Complex have centered on concerns including traffic concerns to environmental concerns. The project is being built on state-owned land, as the NJSEA is a state agency, and $81.3 million was spent on transportation improvements such as new off and on ramps and a train station at the Sports Complex.[25] Some have also called the mall a "colossal real estate nightmare",[85] and "perhaps the worst retail failure ever".[86]

The project was also criticized by environmentalists who issued a complaint on July 10, 2012 that draft permits approved by the Army Corps of Engineers would allow more five more acres of wetlands to be destroyed for the project, which had already filled in more than seven. Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ chapter of the Sierra Club, stated, "This project will increase traffic and flooding while taking business away from existing stores. This project is the Super Bowl of Sprawl and the American Dream is a commuter’s nightmare."[47]

In May 2006, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it was formally investigating the Mills Corporation, the original developer of the property, after it announced that it was restating four years of earnings due to executive misconduct and accounting errors. Later in the year, an analyst at Bank of America Securities pushed Mills Corporation to drop the project, citing the signs of cost overruns.[87]

In 2007 the Federal Aviation Administration expressed concerns about the height of the Ferris wheel, which at the time was planned to be 287 ft (87 m), which the FAA feared would affected local air traffic to and from Teterboro Airport.[88]

In February 2015, US federal prosecutors accused Joe Ferriero, former chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization and New Jersey political power broker, of bribery, fraud, and racketeering charges.[89] The charges included an allegation that Mills Corporation paid Ferriero $1.7 million over the course of several years as a bribe or extortion to maintain Ferriero's political support for their development bid on the Xanadu project against rivals Hartz Mountain Industries. James Dausch, a former Mills Corporation employee testified that the $1.7 million was paid for Ferriero's consulting, not as a bribe. Dausch's testimony detailed much of the development bid process, including paid lobbyists positioning Mills with Governor Jim McGreevey, then Governor Richard Codey, as well as with Senator Robert Menendez.[90] In April 2015, Ferriero was found guilty on five counts, but not on the Mills Corporation racketeering charges.[91]

The State of New Jersey, through the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority issued $1.15 billion in tax-free bonds to support the project. These unrated bonds yielded 6.625% when first issued. They were part of a suite of tax concessions negotiated with the state and the City of Hackensack.[92]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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