The fate of the former Xanadu entertainment/retail development project on Route 3 in East Rutherford is now in the hands of a new company.
Developer Triple Five closed on the property on July 31 and was given the keys to what has become something of a white elephant development to this point. But they expect to see a groundbreaking on the $3.7 billion entertainment project, now called American Dream Meadowlands, later this month.
The new firm will add $1.9 billion to $2.6 billion already expended in its construction.
With the complex nearly 80 percent complete, Triple Five hopes to improve the aesthetics of the exterior and to heighten retail attraction and retention inside. The developer also plans to add an ice rink in addition to the amusement and water parks.
Amusements and Dream Works characters
The project began in the late 1990s when Mills Corporation – developer of theme malls in Florida and other parts of the country – proposed it for an environmentally sensitive area. In a dramatic compromise made in 1999, the project was relocated to property owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Originally proposed to open in 2009, developers started construction and stopped, leaving half constructed buildings vacant for nearly four years.
Although the project had the backing of four governors, it was Gov. Christopher Christie that kicked started the project again two years ago with the hopes of having it open in time for the 2014 Super Bowl. But legal squabbles with the two NFL sports teams over possible traffic issues have delayed the project again.
“I just hope that the developers live up to all the commitments they’ve made.” – Mayor Michael Gonnelli
The facility is expected to house themed rides, attractions, retail, and other venues. The retail and entertainment venue will also have a water park, ice skating rink, indoor ski park, and theaters, along with nearly 1.7 million square feet of retail space and 150,000 square feet of fine dining and restaurants.
Proposed as a sports-oriented mall by Mills Corporation in 1995 for a tract of land located in nearby Wood-Ridge, a compromised worked out by the governor’s office in 1999 relocated Xanadu to the Sports Complex, sending both the NJ Devils ice hockey team and the New Jersey Nets basketball team to other locations. The project was to feature sports related themed entertainment and shopping, as well as a possible baseball park for a minor league team to play in.
A downturn in the economy as well as lack of funding stalled the project. Canada-based developer Triple Five Group stepped in at the end of 2010 and proposed an expansion of the project to include indoor amusement and water parks.
Developers for the American Dream Meadowlands project reportedly cut a deal with Deutsche Bank to provide an approximately $700 million loan toward the $1.7 billion that remains to finish the project.
The mall concept changed to include a live performing arts theatre, multi-screen, luxury movie theater, indoors ski and snowboard park, observation wheel, indoor amusement park, indoor water park, indoor ice skating rink, indoor skydiving, bowling, Legoland Discovery Center, aquarium, and miniature golf.
Triple Five estimates the project will create more than 8,900 construction jobs over the next two years and up to 35,000 jobs once fully completed.
Construction is estimated to last between 18-24 months.
“It’s about time they started to do something,” said Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
Secaucus is east of the empty shell of the patricianly constructed retail and entertainment complex, which to some has become a multi-colored eyesore.
“I just hope that the developers live up to all the commitments they’ve made,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.