By Holly Dutton
It may be ugly, but the development team now pushing to finish the beleaguered American Dream mall in New Jersey is confident their wallflower will catch some eyes at next week’s ICSC convention in Vegas.
Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five which now owns the unfinished 4.8-million square feet mall next door to the Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, will travel to Sin City with a team of executives.
“We’re very excited about it,ˮ said Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus. “I think there’s a real buzz in the retail industry.ˮ
Marcus said there is a “great deal” of interest from retailers and “a number” of letters of intent signed for space at the mall.
He declined to disclose which companies were looking at the complex, but did say “they would be names you would certainly know.”
Triple Five is hoping to get started on finishing American Dream as soon as possible.
“We have gained basically all our regulatory approvals and are waiting for final approval from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority,” said Marcus.
Once complete, the anchor retail space will total 650,000 s/f while specialty retail, projected to be 300 stores, will total 1.1 million s/f. Restaurants, of which 50 are estimated, will total 150,000 s/f.
Entertainment at the complex will include a live performing arts theatre, multi-screen luxury movie theater, indoor ski and snowboarding park, an observation wheel, an indoor amusement park and water park, indoor ice skating, indoor skydiving, bowling, Legoland Discovery Center, and aquarium and miniature golf.
The project was originally developed by the Mills Corporation and Mack-Cali Realty.
After construction began in 2004, the project was expected to be completed and opened within two years. But five years later, in May of 2009, lenders withdrew following the Lehman Brothers collapse.
In late 2010, Triple Five, the developer of the Mall of America, signed a letter of intent to take over and redevelop the complex.
Yet to be completed are the DreamWorks water and amusement park and interiors of the main building, which is 80 percent completed.
Road improvements around the complex have are nearly complete, and a $200 million railway that links to Lautenberg Station in Secaucus and New York City has been finished.
Developers are projecting 40 million annual visitors to the mega-shopping and entertainment center, which Jersey’s outspoken Gov. Chris Christie once dubbed “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America.”