Triple Five is hoping to turn a notorious white elephant into a green cash cow — with a little help from Hudson’s Bay Co.
American Dream, a 3 million-square-foot shopping center-cum-amusement park rising in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., will house three HBC nameplates: a 131,906-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue, 119,605-square-foot Lord & Taylor and 30,000-square-foot Saks Off 5th.
The stores are slated to bow in late summer 2017 when the center opens.
“It’s the only project in the world to have all three of those brands,” said Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five. “[HBC] understood the enormity of this project in this market. The scope and size of American Dream allows each brand to live independently.”
“American Dream is one of the most unique projects in the world,” said Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of Hudson’s Bay. “It’s elevating the shopping center format to combine retail, dining, lifestyle and entertainment to create a total experiential destination. We believe that shopping is an entertainment experience and the American Dream concept exemplifies that philosophy fully.”
“We appeal to a broad range of consumers, from luxury to better department store to off-price,” said Jerry Storch, chief executive officer of HBC. “Our nameplates serve most of the market. Because this center is so large, we can operate on several levels. The format and layout of the property are special. This is definitely not your typical mall. It’s a destination.”
An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink array of attractions designed to draw families and tourists will include a Dreamworks-themed amusement park, water park, Big Snow America indoor ski slope, aquarium, miniature golf course, NHL-sized ice skating rink, performing arts theater and observation wheel, as well as 16 full-service restaurants, two food halls and a food court.
Ghermezian expects American Dream to draw 40 million people annually from the metropolitan Tristate area and as far as Philadelphia. There are 21 million people within a 50-mile radius with an average household income of more than $96,000, he said.
The project has had a difficult past. It was envisioned in 2003 as Meadowlands Xanadu, a venture between the Mills Corp. and Mack-Cali in partnership with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
Hobbled by construction delays, bankruptcies, lawsuits and a revolving door of developers and financing institutions, the project lay dormant until 2011 when Triple Five stepped in to finish the project. The hulking rust, yellow, turquoise and white structure it inherited was called “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey” by Gov. Chris Christie.
“We scrapped the entire prior development,” Ghermezian said. “We gutted it, redesigned it and re-tenanted it. It’s a totally different vision than anyone else had.” The exterior will also be different, a sprawling silver complex with more glass than in typical malls, offering ample views to passing traffic of the water park and amusement park.
“We’ll cater to not just the local market, but capitalize on the 55 million tourists” who visit the New York City area each year, Ghermezian said. “It’s just a matter of what can we put inside the project to get tourists to come from Manhattan. We anticipate on being well north of $1,500 per square foot in [annual] sales.”
Triple Five’s portfolio includes the 4.87 million-square-foot Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the 5.3 million-square-foot West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The company is planning to expand American Dream by an additional 3 million-plus square feet. “It will be bigger than Mall of America,” Ghermezian said.
He also revealed that Triple Five has secured more than 200 acres in the Miami-Dade area, where it hopes to build a 5 million-square-foot center. “We’ll take the best of American Dream with a Miami flair and cater to all of the South American and European tourists,” he said.
In addition to Saks and Lord & Taylor, the Collections section of the mall will feature 80 to 100 specialty stores in 400,000 square feet of space, from high-street brands to“European designer brands that have very few stores in the market,” Ghermezian said. The off-price district will be on the third floor.
American Dream’s heavy car traffic, rail access “and proximity to one of the largest international airports in the country in Newark” appealed to HBC, Storch said. “It’s a unique, highly visible location.”