American Dream Meadowlands
|Location||Meadowlands Sports Complex, East Rutherford, New Jersey|
|Opening date||2018 (?)|
|Owner||Triple Five Group|
|Architect||The Rockwell Group|
|No. of stores and services||400+|
|No. of anchor tenants||6|
|Total retail floor area||4,800,000 sq ft (450,000 m2)|
|No. of floors||5|
|Parking||30,000+ spaces (11,450 walkup, 20,000 overflow, 3 parking garages)|
American Dream Meadowlands (ADM) is a retail and entertainment complex under construction in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It 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.
The 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 entire site, with ground-breaking set for late August. Construction officially began in November and the developer estimated it would take approximately 24 months to complete the project. In December 2014, the project was scheduled to partially open by Fall of 2016. As of June 2015, the project was projected to be open by summer of 2017. As of 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.
The project started in July 2002 with a request for proposal issued by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for a project to be built adjacent to the (then-named) Continental Airlines Arena. In February 2003, the authority's board chose a joint venture between the former Mills Corporation and the Mack-Cali realty corporation, in partnership with the Sports Complex's owner, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The project was selected over alternatives proposed by Westfield and Hartz Mountain Industries.
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." Ground was broken on the complex on September 29, 2004, and, at the time, was expected to open two years later.
In May 2009, construction on Xanadu, which was nearly 80% complete (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, it is unknown how many retailers stayed leased while the mall was delayed. In August 2009, Cabela's, a major anchor, announced that it did not plan to open its Meadowlands location until late 2010. Around the same time, the complex's website was relaunched with the new Xanadu Meadowlands name.
In 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. 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".
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. 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. Triple Five proposed that the mall be expanded to include indoor amusement and water parks. Developers cut a deal with Deutsche Bank to provide an approximately $700 million loan to finish the project.
On February 1, 2011, after a record-breaking month of snow for the area, 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. 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."
On April 29, 2011, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority completed a deal with Triple Five Group, which currently owns two of North America's largest malls—West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America. Triple Five assumed ownership of the Meadowlands Mall and renamed it to "American Dream Meadowlands", with an opening date of Autumn 2013, months before Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, just across the highway. The deal was officially announced on May 3, 2011, and it was announced Triple Five had secured land across the highway from the mall to construct a domed theme park based on DreamWorks Animation and water park, opening in early 2014.
The mall was delayed further by financing, permitting, and a lawsuit filed by the New York Giants and New York Jets over traffic concerns. 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 Giants and Jets' lawsuit.
On March 13, 2014 the Triple Five Group announced a settlement was reached with the New York Giants and New York Jets allowing the long-delayed project to move forward. Construction has 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. That April, Triple Five released a revised design for the mall's exterior and confirmed a tentative opening date in late 2016.
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.
The exterior of the project, which is visible from the New Jersey Turnpike and New Jersey Route 3, is a combination of aluminum composite and aluminum siding, of various colors including turquoise, red, yellow, and green. The north end of the building consists of the indoor ski slope. Most politicians and the public have equally criticized the building's appearance calling it "The ugliest building in New Jersey". Former Acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey was quoted in the New York Times as calling the structure "yucky-looking". Although the facility has been renamed, Governor Chris Christie is on record as saying it's “an offense to the eyes as you drive up the turnpike" and that “It’s by far the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America.” The exterior will be repainted in a different color scheme as part of Triple Five's ownership.
Publicity materials for the project claim that the complex, if and when opened, will contain the following features.
Announced in February 2008, the Pepsi Globe, a 287 ft (87 m) tall giant Ferris wheel with 26 passenger capsules, was to be constructed facing the NJ Turnpike and originally expected to open in 2009.
- Indoor ice rink (NHL-sized)
- DreamWorks Amusement Park – A year-round indoor theme park
- Water park – A year-round indoor water park
- Movie theater – 26 screen movie theater with outdoor lounge overlooking Manhattan
- Concert hall – 2,400–3,000 seat performing arts and concert venue
- Big Snow America™ Indoor Ski Slope – The first indoor ski and snowboard park in the Western Hemisphere. 180,000 square feet of adventure, featuring an 800-foot (12-story) ski slope for skiing, snowboarding and tubing.
- Miniature golf course
- 6 "anchor" retail tenants with 50,000+ square feet each
- 12 "major" retailers (20,000 to 50,000 square feet each)
- 339 small shops (up to 20,000 square feet)
- 21 restaurants
- 45 specialty food retailers
- 20 food court, including a kosher food court
- 5 kiosks
Concerns and controversy
From traffic concerns to environmental concerns, there are many who have opposed the idea of building a permanent shopping center within the Meadowlands Sports Complex. 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. Some have also called the mall a "colossal real estate nightmare" and "perhaps the worst retail failure ever".
The New York Giants had proposed that the mall be closed on days when the NFL team had home games, as part of the deal to build a New Meadowlands Stadium to replace Giants Stadium. The Giants then made an agreement with then-Xanadu to allow the complex to be open on game days, with the option to sue if traffic became a concern, an agreement which remains in effect now that the New Meadowlands Stadium will be co-owned with the New York Jets. The teams contend that while the mall will be closed on Sundays due to Bergen County's Blue Law, the amusement park will not, thus creating traffic jams on game days. Between 20,000 and 25,000 park at the complex on game days. Traffic studies conducted by the team estimate that 7,700 will be added by the project, while developers state 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.
The complex was originally developed by the Mills Corporation in partnership with Mack-Cali Realty Corporation, with financing by Kan Am. In May 2006, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it was formally investigating the Mills Corporation after the company 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.
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. 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. In April 2015, Ferriero was found guilty on five counts, but not on the Mills Corporation racketeering charges.
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- Sampson, Peter (February 27, 2015) "Hard work or abuse of power? Joseph Ferriero corruption trial opens with widely varying portrayals"
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- Sampson, Peter (April 16, 2015) "Ferriero convicted on racketeering count; ex-Democratic chief used political clout for profit"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Xanadu Meadowlands.|
- Official website
- $1.3B, 4.8MSF Xanadu Project Will Transform 'Swamps of Jersey'
- Meadowlands Xanadu Unveils First Wave of Major Tenants, Consumer Brands and Entertainment Experiences
- Brennan, John (April 28, 2011). "Mall of America firm completes deal with Xanadu lenders". NorthJersey.com
- Ma, Myles (June 19, 2012). "American Dream Meadowlands shopping center may not be open for 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey". NJ.com.