The Avenue luxury wing of American Dream finally becomes a reality with Friday’s opening of Saks Fifth Avenue, Hermès, Dolce & Gabbana, Mulberry, Johnny Was and Carpaccio, an Italian restaurant from Bal Harbour, Fla.
In the days and weeks to come, Tiffany & Co., Saint Laurent, Anne Fontaine, Alexander Wang, Jonathan Adler, Gentle Monster, Zadig & Voltaire and a Brut Champagne bar will debut on the luxury site as well.
At two levels, 300,000 square feet and space for about 20 stores, The Avenue is 70 percent leased and anchored by the 110,000-square-foot Saks. Hermès is the second-largest store, at 8,000 square feet.
“Avenue is really a street of dreams that will be dreamier as we continue to add new names. We will be adding new names all the time,” said Ken Downing, creative director of Triple Five Group, developer of the mega American Dream retail and entertainment complex.
Time will also tell whether families visiting American Dream’s array of entertainment attractions or shopping its “Main Street” of moderate-priced retail — including Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, Aritzia and Primark — will also visit The Avenue. But the luxury wing strives to be accommodating and for parents with babies, there is an inclusive nursing lounge, adorned with Schumacher wallpaper and oriental garden stools for a homey feeling, also opening Friday.
While advancing its offering with The Avenue, American Dream in the past was beset by financing issues, exacerbated by the pandemic which forced the complex to temporarily close for several months shortly after it first opened in the fall of 2019. The complex defaulted on a construction loan and as a consequence, Triple Five, the developer of American Dream, had to give the lenders a 49 percent stake in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, both developed by Triple Five.
It cost more than $6 billion to build American Dream, located in East Rutherford, N.J. The mall’s large entertainment mix includes a DreamWorks Water Park, Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, Big Snow ski slope, Legoland, Sea Life Aquarium, miniature golf and other features.
The luxury wing itself has been delayed a few times due to construction and supply chain issues. In addition, Barneys New York signed up to open a 50,000-square-foot store but went bankrupt and was liquidated, creating another leasing challenge.
But The Avenue has finally come together, at least with its initial round of openings, and it’s an experience enhanced by common areas filled with eye candy, Instagrammable moments, lots of wide open spaces and places to just chill.
Approaching The Avenue, visitors pass through an ornate lush garden filled with indigenous ferns, fica trees, moss-covered berms and ivy-covered arches, all housed under a glass atrium with natural light so the plant-life thrives.
In a separate court, rainbow-colored banners created from silk, organza and chiffon by artist Rachel Hayes are suspended from the ceiling.
Jonathan Adler has designed much of the interior expression with “sitting salons” for cozy gatherings, koi ponds and a sculpture garden with oversize vessels that he created and crowned with topiaries by Paloma Teppa. Adler previously designed the 31 “VIP Skybox Suites” that overlook the water park, with exotic trappings evoking Bali, Indonesia; Capri, Italy, and Tulum, Mexico.
Right at the approach to The Avenue, the interior design gets tony with a crystal chandelier under a rotunda, a grand staircase and charcoal and black marble flooring.
For the luxury stores still under construction, there are whimsical barricade art with butterflies, bunnies and pink poodles, created by Downing and his team. There’s also The Avenue’s ad campaign, shot in the water park and theme park to be “fashionably fun and sophisticated and chic at the same time,” Downing said. “We did our own campaign, rather than accepting visual assets that the brands would normally give you. I can say we made a substantial investment in promotion for the opening of Avenue.” Digital billboards in New York and New Jersey, as well as magazine and online advertising, are part of the campaign.
In addition, throughout American Dream’s common areas is an exhibit entitled “Intersection: Art Meets Fashion” with American art curated by Rea and Jason Willaford of Galleri Urbane in Dallas and Marfa, Texas, and fall 2021 fashion from Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Greg Lauren, with QR codes to learn about the designers as well as the artists. It runs until Oct. 1.
Downing said traffic at American Dream has recently been strong, and by midday Wednesday, a steady stream of visitors was apparent. He said the complex draws from a 150- to 200-mile radius. Originally, officials figured American Dream would draw from a 100-mile radius. “We are a staycation designation, with a very family-friendly, very kid-friendly environment. Our national reputation is building quickly,” Downing said.
Other developments might have waited longer to stage a grand opening until a larger contingent of tenants was ready to open their stores. Yet at American Dream, “It was important to Don and myself that The Avenue come to fruition and open this fall,” said Downing, referring to Don Ghermezian, chief executive officer of American Dream.
“With the headwinds of COVID-19, it hasn’t been easy for anyone, but at some point, you have to stop waiting,” Downing said. “Right now, there is such a collective energy in Manhattan with people returning to the city, fashion week just ending, the Met Gala. Even with the pandemic people are dining out and shopping.”