Last September the Ghermezian brothers from Edmonton, Canada took ownership of a partially completed, but empty and basically derelict, mega-mall outside Rutherford New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan.
Last week they inked two complicated, but important, agreements that remove the last barriers to starting construction, so they can finally finish the mall.
The goal of the Ghermezian’s company Triple Five is to restore, complete and substantially improve the original concept for the mall, which had been a major casualty of the 2008 recession, and to make it one of the finest destination malls anywhere in the world. The name of the reconceived mall will be American Dream Meadowlands Mall.
It will have 5 million square feet of rentable space when it is finished, with its own indoor skating rink, indoor ski hill and even a large performing arts centre for lavish entertainment programs. Dreamworks will brand an amusement park and water attraction at the mall as well.
However the new mall is located right beside the Meadowlands Sports Complex, with its MetLife branded football stadium, which is home to both the New York Jets and the New York Giants NFL teams. They have not been happy with the proximity of the new mall, and especially of the additional amusement park now added to the concept, and have worried that the impact of all the traffic on game days might seriously deter its sports fans from coming.
Even though existing local shopping laws would restrict retail parts of the mall from opening on Sundays, these would not apply to the amusement park itself. Also one can well imagine that if the mall becomes a great success, pressures will build to permit eventual Sunday opening as well – which would certainly be the “thin edge of the wedge” for the two football teams therefore.
After a lengthy game of hardball over who pays, the New Jersey Transit and the State Turnpike Authority have agreed to improve access to and from the Meadowlands Sports Complex as part of a deal reached earlier this week between the Giants and Jets, and Triple Five, the developer of the American Dream project, to withdraw their objections to the mall.
Already last November the State of New Jersey approved a package of state tax breaks totaling US$390 million to support the new project. Then in December the Borough Council of the town of East Rutherford approved the elements of a deal after which the town will have the authority to issue US$550 million of municipal bonds to help pay for it as well.
So with the transportation agreement now in place everything now looks good to go.
Triple five’s two existing mega-malls, one in Edmonton and one in Minneapolis, each already get 70 million visitors a year and this new third one, now renamed American Dream Meadowlands, will become America’s largest shopping centre when it is finished.
There is already a rapid train service direct to Meadowlands from Manhattan with its own station at Medowlands. There will now be a major upgrading of train service, and improvements will be made to road access to and from the turnpike, .
Accordingly the Ghermezians will undoubtedly seek to bring boatloads of visitors from New York over to their new destination mall, both to shop and to be entertained.
Garth Drabinsky, the famous live theatre impresario who produced Phantom of the Opera and many other famous shows before spending some time in jail for fraud, is already unofficially said to be consulting for the Ghermezians on creating the new live theatre in the mall as a world class venue, and one capable of competing head on with Broadway.