In the New York metropolitan area, the word Xanadu has taken on a different meaning than the idyllic, beautiful place envisioned by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the poem “Kubla Khan.” The 2.3 million-square-foot mixed-use project in the New Jersey Meadowlands has suffered from cost overruns, construction delays, work stoppages and disputes with state and local officials and the New Jersey Sports Authority.
This story first appeared in the May 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It’s no wonder Steve Ross, chairman of the Related Cos., changed the name to the more straightforward Meadowlands when he became involved in the project this month.
Ross has said that he can finish the project if he can raise the $500 million to $700 million necessary to do so. The mall so far has cost about $2 billion.
Related is responsible for the Time Warner Center and Shops at Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side. Related officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Many were in Las Vegas for the ReCon real estate conference, where Related rented a ballroom at Caesars Palace and was said to be marketing Meadowlands.
On Tuesday, the project became even more valuable to Ross. It was announced that the 2014 Super Bowl will be held in the nearby Meadowlands Stadium.
In the meantime, other things besides the Xanadu name could change. “I think there will be a concept change,” said Robert K. Futterman, who is chairman of the real estate firm that bears his name and handled the retail leasing for Xanadu early on. “It could be something like what Related did at Bronx Terminal Market and Gateway 1 and 2 in Brooklyn.”
According to Futterman, construction stopped last fall when contractors walked off the site.
Leasing the vast retail space has proven to be a huge challenge. The movie company building the 26-screen theater is in financial default, Virgin Megastore said in March 2009 that it would close its U.S. stores and Digital Playground, a concept from Circuit City, was canceled due to Circuit City’s bankruptcy.
The delayed opening also has given tenants with signed leases the right to withdraw. Cabela’s, a sporting goods superstore with women’s apparel, shoes, outerwear, sleepwear, watches, jewelry and accessories, planned to build a store with a huge mountain replica with waterfalls and streams, a 9,000-gallon aquarium and a museum-quality diorama devoted to African game animals. Cabela’s ceo Tommy Millner said at an investment conference the retailer is unlikely to ever open a unit at Meadowlands.
A fashion area that would house most of the mall’s stores was to feature the Elle Pavilion with a runway for fashion shows, exhibition and multimedia space. A spokeswoman for Elle said the publication is no longer involved in the project. The project Web site, renamed visitmeadowlands.com, still promotes fashion, however. “Watch a fashion show.…Reward your style in our diverse selection of unique and contemporary shops. With a unique mix of retailers, daily demonstrations, beauty tips and workshops, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy the inner you,” it reads without naming any retailers.
An executive close to the project said, “There are way too many moving parts” to it.
The plans of tenants that reportedly signed leases, including Zara and Abercrombie & Fitch, could not be determined at press time. Jeffrey C. Paisner, a retail broker at Ripco Real Estate, said, “[Tenants] are wary of projects with troubled origins. It doesn’t mean the project is not viable, but from a tenant’s point of view, there’s caution and they’re going to take the road more traveled.”