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FutureStarrAmerican Dream Mall Pandemic in America
When the American Dream mall (an enormous shopping and entertainment hub next to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.) finally unlocked its doors to the public last October, its partner, the Triple Five Group, was excited to prove naysayers wrong.
Since construction began on the project, suspicion had abounded in the 15 years, which was known initially as Xanadu Meadowlands and promised lavishness like an indoor ski slope. But the plaza cycled through developers and billions of dollars in funding and suffered numerous delays.
Once Triple Five, the Canadian real estate company behind the Mall of America in Minnesota, charge over in 2011, it was chosen to reignite the passion for the project. It replaced the name from Xanadu to American Dream, altered an outside that then-Governor Chris Christie had declared "the ugliest" in the state, and promised even more wonders, like an indoor water park and another roller coaster.
But only months after divisions of the complex began opening, inaugurating with its ice-skating rink and a Nickelodeon entertainment park, the pandemic hit.
"It was miserable, the timing of it all," Don Ghermezian, chief administrator of Triple Five and co-chief administrator of American Dream said in an interview. "The shutdown happened in March, only a couple of days before we were preparing to open the balance of the center."
American Dream was considered as not just a place to shop but a vacationist destination. American Dream's tendencies are indoors, an obstacle during the pandemic. Without a vaccine, "it's going to be difficult for this mall to get the foot traffic it was expecting for," one analyst said.
Mr. Ghermezian stated he was upbeat about the mall's future, which reestablished some of its attractions on Oct. 1. But the COVID-19 has hit many retailers and shopping malls and left many customers skittish about much of what Triple Five was gambling on — travel, crowds, and the attraction of indoor spaces. It has also spotlighted the money tied to the mall's success, which is now facing the warning of yet another shutdown during the all-important festival shopping season as coronavirus cases spike again.
"It is a tremendously bad accident," said Vince Tibone, a local analyst at Green Street, a business real estate analytics firm. "Until there's a public vaccine and both national and international travel rebounds to what it practiced being, it's going to be difficult for this mall to get the foot traffic it was hoping for."
Triple Five, which also operates Canada's West Edmonton mall had predicted 40 million visitors a year to American Dream. This notably tall figure would put it on standard with Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Mr. Tibone wrote that the complex was already facing alternate tourists between Manhattan and northern New Jersey. And beyond corona store closings, American Dream is facing the issue that its displays — from its caviar bar and ski slope to its roller coasters and DreamWorks-themed water park — are inside at a time when public health officials are advising people to stay outside.
As of last week, approximately 90 of the mall's food and retail tenants were disclosed. If not for the pandemic, that amount would have been closer to 200, the co-chief official said.
All three of Triple Five's plazas have suffered this year because of the coronavirus, including the Mall of America, which reportedly started a cash-management agreement last summer after lacking months of mortgage payments.
The company proposed that the American Dream complex would finally support more than 20,000 jobs and produce nearly $150 million annually in state and regional taxes. A lawyer for Triple Five said in an April letter to the Federal Reserve about its Main Street lending business for midsize companies.
But the mart was still in the rule of opening in phases, it called "chapters," and it's mid-March closing came just days before the center could initiate its most standard offering — its retail shops.
Since the mall was first imagined, it has had to engage with a fast-changing shopping landscape and the privations of announced tenants like Barneys New York and Toys "R" Us and the truth that the county where it is based bans retail sales on Sundays.
This year has pushed another wave of bankruptcies from significant series, including declared tenants like Lord & Taylor and Century 21.
Mr. Ghermezian stated that the shopping center missed "very, very few renters" and that those that had exited because of the coronavirus were replaced. He stated that if not for the closings, as many as 200 of the mall's retail and food holders would probably have opened this month.
Last week, he said, about 90 were permitted, including the biggest Zara in the United States and the flagship for Primark's fast-fashion chain.
Investors and local bureaucrats, including in the borough of East Rutherford, have been worried about the future of the American Dream.
American Dream's partner had envisioned it as a goal that would attract as many people as Walt Disney World typically sees. Attractions cover a ski slope and a DreamWorks theme park. The pandemic kicked only months after divisions of the complex began inaugurating, including its Nickelodeon amusement park.
The $5 billion construction has received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer considerations and promised millions of dollars in cash in coming years to East Rutherford, which has been observing the site's progress for what has appeared like an eternity.
"We believed the Xanadu project would be open by 2007," remarked James Cassella, the former administrator of East Rutherford who left in 2019 after more than 20 years in the office. Even after Triple Five joined the picture, he said, "there were more occasion dates on this than you could imagine."
"There was forever something that prevented it from Day 1," he said. "Building, investment, economy, interest rates — you define it."
Mr. Cassella declared that East Rutherford negotiated yearly payments from American Dream that ran out for decades, with extra money coming in after the mall reopened. The government was also looking forward to jobs created by the establishment. Developers have predicted that the complex will eventually hold more than 20,000 jobs.
But public reports show that American Dream is slow on its payments to East Rutherford. In January, East Rutherford electors also narrowly signed a $35.5 million, 20-year bond to finance improvements at its schools after officials announced money from the American Dream development would help moderate the tax burden for citizens.
The bond became a point of discussion during local elections this year as concerns were built around the shopping center. East Rutherford spokespeople didn't respond to questions for comment.
When the mall reestablished for business on Oct. 1, Lisa Washburn, an investigator for Municipal Market Analytics, took a study trip to see what the first back-to-business date looked like. The peoples were sparse, she said, and many shops had more workers than customers. (She purchased $14 worth of sticky bears at the IT'SUGAR candy shop.)
The branch sat on state land and obtained tax-free debt funding through a series of bonds that could provide risks to investors. American Dream mall has virus safety protocols in spot, but a lack of tourists in New York has prevented its ambitions.
Since reestablishing, the mall has decided to lure customers back. A worker sterilizes the amusement park. In its advertisements, American Dream has highlighted its social distancing guidelines. Ms. Washburn answered there was very little clarity into the mall's investments for bond investors to see, so it was challenging to obtain an accurate picture of its condition. "The disclosure is very cheap," she said.
Investors are also following a $27 million debt payment that is scheduled next month. When questioned whether the debt amount would be made, Mr. Ghermezian replied, "We are working with our donors regularly to put a plan in place that enables the center to continue to flourish." American Dream is also running out of other payments, including those to East Rutherford, he spoke.
"Yes, there are some funds that are owed," he said. "But again, not unlike any other developer in the nation that has had their plans shut down across the board, we want to work as true partners with the cities, with lenders, with tenants, to make sure everyone is getting a fair position and fair share in how to handle this pandemic."
Mr. Ghermezian said that Triple Five still expected to build out "a couple million more square feet" in the Meadowlands, with programs in place for a convention center and approximately 3,000 to 3,500 hotel rooms. Once tourism recovers, the firm expects people, particularly families visiting New York, to stay at American Dream before moving into the city.
Triple Five, which is defined for three generations of the Ghermezian family and its five patrons, is also continuing to attempt a similarly ambitious mall design in Miami, though possibly at a slower pace than it appeared before Covid-19, Mr. Ghermezian said. While he accepted the challenges facing shopping malls, he said that projects such as American Dream stood apart from conventional malls and stores.
"You're going to notice a hell of a lot of shopping centers seized on this year," he said. "The last guys waiting will be successful, and we strongly believe, 100 percent, that is American Dream in this business."
The ice-skating rink was inaugurated in October 2019. He continued, "We're going to hold American Dream for the following 100, 200 years or whatever it is."
For momentarily, American Dream is going to persuade people to visit. Since reopening, it has postponed its parking fees. In advertisements on social media, it has mentioned its social-distancing and virus-safety guidelines. The commercials urge people to shop, visit SpongeBob SquarePants at the Nickelodeon theme park, and shake the cold in the mall's water park. The temperature is kept at 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
"If there were no pandemic, I would be scared we'd be getting too much movement in American Dream," Mr. Ghermezian answered.
Joel Brizzi, a retired East Rutherford councilman, announced that though he had long been confident about the project and Triple Five, he was worried about the mall and whether it could face a second pandemic-related closedown.
"How long can you keep working without any revenue?" Mr. Brizzi said. "The jury's still away on whether it's going to persevere." Mr. Cassella, the previous mayor, said that he was also concerned about the mall's ability to overcome the pandemic.
"There are many people that say, 'I hope this place loses,' but it wouldn't be satisfying for anybody if this thing flops," he said. "It would be an absolute tragedy for the state for sure, the complex, and quite honestly, East Rutherford would fall out because we've gone so far with it. It would be a huge revenue loss."
What Kind of Services/Activities can you expect at American Dream Mall?
The unique destination for indoor family entertainment, American Dream in East Rutherford, NJ, gives an experience for customers that’s nothing short of unbelievable. Just moments from New York City, the fun and shopping complex fuses a blend of world-class attractions with unique dining and shopping, presenting a true “Daycation” escape filling all your recreation needs.
The mega-sized marketplace currently houses over 3-million square feet of immersive occasions, with more stores and unique displays opening each week. Here’s what you can anticipate:
1- Big Snow or Blade Action
Whether you ski, slide, or snowboard, American Dream is the site to go for winter recreations. North America’s leading indoor, real-snow ski fascination, BIG SNOW, is welcoming 365-days-a-year so that you can destroy the slopes in any season and experience apres-ski treats like gourmet hot cocoa (imagine churros and fruity pebbles) and waffles when you’re finished.
Amateurs and pros alike can slide down a 16-story slope complete with private lessons and gondolas. There’s even a kiddie entertainment area for sports-free wintry fun. Are you tired of the powder? Move on over to The Rink, an NHL-regulation intensity skating and hockey facility entertaining daily ice-skating gatherings, private events, and a learn-to-play meeting with the New Jersey Devils for guys and girls 5 through 9.
2- Create a Splash
One of the most significant draws for thrill-seekers and families is DreamWorks Water Park – the current record owner for the largest indoor water park and indoor stream pool worldwide.
Possessing over 40 slides and attractions, a pineapple DJ booth for everyone’s ideal lemur King Julien, and super-luxe unique cabanas designed by NJ’s own Jonathan Adler, you can rest in the lazy river - or race your buddies down the highest body slide (14 stories above!).
3- In the “Nick” of Time
The fun continues over at Nickelodeon Universe, the most comprehensive indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere, with above 30 rides and attractions for the junior and young at heart.
Family-friendly coasters such as the Slime Streak awaits visitors, while The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shellraiser trip takes you to new altitudes (Literally. It’s the current record-holder for the most perpendicular coaster!).
A 9-level strings course, live game programs, and bumper cars action are in the works, with fast-pass availability to jump the lines coming soon. Don’t go without snapping a shot with your beloved mascot, like Spongebob and Dora the Explorer.
4- Unlimited Entertainment
Unique attractions currently cover two themed mini-golf programs (an out-of-this-world Blacklight adventure or Angry Birds avian experience,) mind-bending Glass Maze optical illusion, and the world’s leading tri-level candy department shop, IT’SUGAR.
With a marketing model that’s entertainment-focused, there’s a collection of experiences to delight youngsters of all ages coming soon. As the availability of a SEA LIFE® Aquarium and LEGOLAND® Discovery Center, accompanying with the first-of-its-kind TiLT Museum - a street-chic 3D interactive art adventure that lets you step into a life-size decoration.
5- One-Stop Shopping
The purpose of uniting customers and their families by attaching them to the brands they admire currently includes flagship shopping places for Primark, Zara, and H&M – accompanying with a brand-new Best Buy.
Expected future openings are prepared for a lavish luxury section called “The Avenue,” starring NJ’s only Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co., Gucci, and more. The one-of-a-kind buying destination will also house a Walgreens, DSW, cinema complex, and 300-foot-high Inspection Wheel.
6- Safety First
Protection is top-of-mind, as American Dream mall has protocols in place to shield its guests. The #DreamSafe initiative commands face masks (with a water park exception,) hand sanitizing services throughout, and contactless QR codes for ticket entrance.
Conjunction with Hackensack Meridian Health is in place, combining an upcoming Urgent Care Center at the department. American Dream rigidly adheres to guidelines from national, state, and local government authorities like the CDC so that you can concentrate on the fun without hesitation.
Parking is available (except for valet service and match days), and you can visit the American Dream website for the freshest updates, hours, and regulations, as well as hotel and transport options, such as the NY Waterway and NJ Transit vans.
A rideshare place is also available for easy approachability. No matter which way you prefer to arrive, American Dream can make your fantasies a reality.
8- Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park
Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park is the most famous indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere. Feel the world's tallest, the most perpendicular, and the longest rides.
9- Blacklight Mini Golf
Blacklight Mini Golf is an inside mini-golf course that allows you to put through 18 holes of energetic, alien landscapes, strange planets, fun, robots, and spaceships.
10- Angry Birds
Feel the world of Angry Birds through our one-of-a-kind Angry Birds Mini Golf program — all ages are promised to have the time of their careers.
11- The Rink
The Rink offers a premier, NHL regulation-sized ice-skating rink allowing public skating and exceptional events.
Travel the city beneath the sea! An underwater world is starring thousands of rays, fish, sharks, and more amidst NYC-themed displays.
13- DreamWorks Water Park
It is the biggest indoor water park in North America. Enjoy a year-round splashy fun with the broadest selection of water slides global.
14- Mirror Maze
Mirror Maze is a fantastic family adventure. Project your way into a new dimension loaded with infinite pictures.
15- Big Snow
Unlike other things, North America's exclusive indoor real-snow park promoting all kinds of hill runs and ski/snowboard coaching programs for all snow sports enthusiasts.
Explore millions of LEGO blocks and epic attractions for developing builders inside the latest indoor park.
17- TiLT Museum
TiLT Museum is an innovative 3D street chalk hall from Tracy Lee Stum that permits you to step into a life-size representation. Be a part of the painting.
18- Private transport
Drivers traveling to the location are provided with a 33,000-space parking area. The American Dream initially declared plans to charge for daily parking but proposes to charge for parking were canceled. American Dream will only charge for parking when events occur at MetLife Stadium.
The parking garage is set to include an intelligent IT interface produced by Atos, which would place Bluetooth-enabled, and sensors beacons to help shoppers locate empty parking spots near the shops and attractions they want to visit.
American Dream will drive a fleet of several helicopters to give luxury transportation to rich international tourists and tenants from the rooftop of the mall's Saks Fifth Avenue store.