View Single Post
Old Posted May 4, 2011, 4:31 PM
NYguy's Avatar
NYguy NYguy is offline
New Yorker for life
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Borough of Jersey
Posts: 45,091

Developers and Christie Detail a Plan for Xanadu

An interior view of the unfinished Xanadu mall in the Meadowlands. On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie and developers
laid out a new vision for completing and expanding the vast complex.

May 3, 2011

Much bigger and more expensive, but less gaudy: Gov. Chris Christie and developers laid out a new vision on Tuesday for completing and expanding the vast retail and entertainment complex formerly known as Xanadu in the Meadowlands.

Triple Five — the developer taking over the project, which is now called American Dream@Meadowlands — announced that the mall, where work ground to a halt two years ago, would open for business in late 2013.

Mr. Christie disclosed that Triple Five was also in talks with New Jersey officials about taking over the Izod Center, the struggling sports and entertainment arena nearby.

It was revealed last week that the state, lenders and Triple Five had reached an agreement for the developer to restart and expand the immense, unfinished Xanadu project. But no one provided any details until Tuesday, when state officials and executives of Triple Five held a news conference here and, for the first time, gave journalists in hard hats a tour of the almost-completed main building.

“It’s finally going to move forward now,” Mr. Christie said of the project, which has already burned through $1.9 billion and two developers, each of whom ran out of money.

“It’s going to move forward and be finished.”

The company unveiled artists’ renderings showing a simpler, more muted look both inside and out, including a largely pale blue skin to replace the exterior jumble of bright colors and shapes.

Triple Five revealed on Tuesday that it planned to spend $1.5 billion or more. It said it would expand the project to about 3 million square feet, from 2.2 million, by adding a water park and an amusement park, both under a climate-controlled, glass-and-steel dome alongside the New Jersey Turnpike. The firm has not yet acquired the land needed for that expansion.

New features will also be added to the main structure, including an ice-skating rink and possibly a rooftop outdoor movie theater, Triple Five said.

Officials with the state and Triple Five said the complex would draw more than 50 million people a year, even more than the 42 million who go to the company’s Mall of America, a similar but larger shopping center outside of Minneapolis.

The planned 2013 opening could have political implications for Mr. Christie, who expects to run for re-election in November of that year. The governor, a Republican, had vowed to resuscitate the project, which was devised and derailed under his Democratic predecessors.

Officials hope the mall can take advantage of the 2014 Super Bowl, to be played at New Meadowlands Stadium, a short distance away.

The state has already spent, by some accounts, as much as $1 billion on financing, tax breaks and highway improvements to support the development.

The state will provide about $200 million in financing to Triple Five, and Mr. Christie has said that in return for such aid, the state must share in the benefits if the project succeeds.

The governor declined to say on Tuesday what financial arrangements would be made, but said, “we will get our investment back, and then some.”

That was disputed by Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who said the developer should be paying the state, which owns the land, rather than the other way around. He raised concerns about traffic and other environmental consequences of the project, adding, “New Jersey needs another mall like we need another Superfund site.”

The concept behind such megaprojects is that drawing and keeping crowds requires a variety of entertainment options, and American Dream will include features like an indoor ski slope, a movie theater, a live theater and a planned Ferris wheel.

No one has embraced the model more enthusiastically than Triple Five, which is owned by the Ghermezian family, based in Canada. It owns both the Mall of America and the 5.3 million-square-foot West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, North America’s largest — both of which include features like amusement parks.

Those complexes draw legions of tourists, and Nader Ghermezian, chairman of Triple Five, said half the visitors to American Dream would be from outside the immediate area. He said that even people on layovers at Newark Liberty International Airport would visit the mall, and that his firm was talking with the airlines about that.

Architecturally, Triple Five plans to make cosmetic changes to the interior, striving for a simpler, more streamlined look, while eliminating some walls to allow more sunlight in. Even toned down, however, the vast complex, which will be brightly lighted at night, will be hard to miss, noted Paul Ghermezian, the firm’s senior vice president.

“People always notice how you see the Manhattan skyline from here,” he said. “What they don’t think about is, that means Manhattan can see us.

“Millions of people are going to look out their windows and say, ‘Hey, what’s that?’ ”

The empty mall, where work ground to a halt two years ago, will now open for business in late 2013, developers announced.
NEW YORK heals.

“Office buildings are our factories – whether for tech, creative or traditional industries we must continue to grow our modern factories to create new jobs,” said United States Senator Chuck Schumer.
Reply With Quote