BY TOM HESTER SR.
Forget about the name Xanadu, it stands for failure and ugliness in the Meadowlands. Tuesday the place got a new name, American Dream at the Meadowlands, and a promise from the new owners to redo the eyesore by ripping away the orange, blue and teal facade and replacing it with a shimmering glass structure.
Triple Five officers, the owners of Mall of America in Minnesota, and Gov. Chris Christie met reporters at the partially completed mall to announce the design plans and the new name for the long-stalled Meadowlands entertainment and retail complex.
It also was announced that a definitive agreement reached between Triple Five and the banks that own the project, another step in the Christie administration’s effort to move the project forward as an economic engine for the region and state.
Triple Five officers said the existing space will be transformed into a premier tourism, entertainment and retail destination for New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area.
The American Dream will include what is described as many of the family-friendly attractions including an enclosed amusement park, indoor water park, ice rink, a movie theater, aquarium, comedy club, dinner and performing arts theater. It will also include a 16-story indoor ski hill, the only indoor ski facility in North America.
The proposed 2.9 million-square-foot project is set to open in fall 2013. It will have nearly 1.7 million square feet of retail space and 150,000 square feet of restaurants.
"I can tell you it will look nothing like it does today," Paul Ghermezian Sr., Triple Five senior vice president, said. "The concept is sleek lines with a modern energy. At night, it's going to be amazing. It's going to glow."
Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director, did not see the announcement of the Triple Five takeover and expansion of the mall as good news.
"They are going to increase the size of Xanadu (the American Dream) by 25 percent from 2.3 million square feet to 2.9 million square feet," Tittel said. "This will mean more traffic, more pollution, and more tax subsidies. The mega mall is turning into the monster mall gobbling up everything in its site. Instead of fixing the problem with Xanadu we keep making the mess bigger. They could not lease all the space when it was smaller what makes them think they can lease the space when it is bigger. The $200 million subsidy was based on a $1 billion cost to finish Xanadu, but with the expansion the cost will rise to $1.7 billion and the subsidy now can be up to $350 million.
Tittel said Triple Five will receive $1.25 billion in public subsidies and tax breaks, including the up to $350 million in state subsidies, $1 million in roadway improvements, $31 million of taxpayer tolls for turnpike access, $180 million for a rail line to the mall, $300 million in property tax exemptions, and special legislation to give it a liquor license.
“They may want to call this the American Dream, but it is a taxpayer nightmare that will pick the pockets of the average citizens of New Jersey," Tittel said. "It is unconscionable that at a time when the average citizens are hurting financially, local governments are broke, and property taxes are rising that we are subsidizing this monster mall. Teachers, police, and fireman are being laid off, but we are going to give hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare to a Canadian developer.”
Tittel said that since January, 2010, the administration has given $1.172 million in corporate tax subsidies to 70 companies through four programs. He listed the top subsidies as: $350 million to Xanadu/American Dream, $261 million for construction of Revel casino in Atlantic City, $102 million to Panasonic Corporation to move to Newark, $14 million to Bayer Healthcare, and $12 million to Intrasphere Technologies.