The saga of American Dream at Meadowlands took another unexpected turn last week when developer Triple Five announced that the project, hoped to be completed in Fall 2017, will now be delayed yet again over finance woes.
The 91-acre complex, which was first approved all the way back in 2003, would have no luck if it didn’t have bad luck. The project, originally called Xanadu and located in East Rutherford’s Sports Complex area, was a victim of the economic downturn when its second developer, Colony Capital, went bankrupt in 2009.
Developer Triple Five, who owns Minnesota’s Mall of America, then purchased the incomplete facility in 2011 and rebranded it as American Dream, revising and expanding Xanadu’s original plans to include a glass-domed amusement park with year-round roller coasters, a water park and an aquarium.
The project, the cost estimates of which are as high as $5 billion, currently plans to span about three million square feet and include retail space, restaurants, a 800-foot long indoor skiing hill and a 300-foot high Ferris Wheel.
American Dream had been the subject of a lawsuit brought in 2012 by the NFL’s Giants and Jets, who play at nearby MetLife Stadium. The teams were concerned about traffic issues related to the expansion, which Triple Five characterized as “obstruction” in their own lawsuit against the teams the following year. Both sides did eventually work out their differences in 2014, settling their lawsuits and paving the way for construction to commence.
Last year brought mostly positive news on the project, with Triple Five announcing that the complex would include a permanent Cirque du Soleil theater and be the future home of FAO Schwartz, the iconic Manhattan toy store that closed down last year. The company also trumpeted the inclusion of a 55,000-square foot Toys ‘R Us and a Legoland Discovery Center, additionally claiming that NYC-based restaurants Carnegie Deli, El Vez, and STK had signed on to open in the complex.
Work has noticeably picked up at the site and massive cranes around the project are still clearly visible when driving on Route 3 near American Dream. But Triple Five needs more financing for the project and announced last week that a bond package for the facility would not go out for sale until “early summer”.
East Rutherford mayor James Cassella appeared to have renewed skepticism on the whole project during last week’s town council meeting following the latest delay, telling the crowd that “this project may or may not go” and adding that borough officials have “had enough of this already and we’re tired of waiting.”
A pessimist would point out that children who were born when the project was first approved will be entering High School soon, but there’s one elected official who appears at least slightly positive about American Dream’s future. Governor Chris Christie, who will leave office in January 2018, told reporters at a press conference last week that “I’d like to think [American Dream] will be open before I go,” but noted that the project’s life now spans three different governors and it’s “now in the hands of the developers and the credit market.”