A rendering of the planned American Dream Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford — Courtesy: Triple Five
By Joshua Burd
The developer of the American Dream project in the Meadowlands has closed on $1.67 billion in private financing, allowing it to “aggressively move forward” with construction after months of delays at the notoriously stalled retail and entertainment complex.
Triple Five Group announced Friday that it secured the construction loan, an infusion that is expected to go hand in hand with a long-awaited, $1 billion tax-exempt bond offering for the massive project in East Rutherford. In the announcement, the Edmonton, Canada-based developer also said the nearly 3 million-square-foot project is slated to open in March 2019.
The firm said J.P. Morgan led the construction financing, while Goldman Sachs is leading the bond offering. Don Ghermezian, CEO and president of American Dream, said the financing will give way to a project that will “establish the new standard and redefine the retail and entertainment experience in the US and across the world.”
“We are pleased to have worked with J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs on the financing for this transformational project,” Ghermezian said in a prepared statement. “The construction loan paves the way for the completion of American Dream and allows us to aggressively move forward with the construction and opening of the project.”
Public officials and business leaders hope Friday’s announcement provides the jolt needed to restart the long-stalled project. Originally known as Xanadu, the project has gone through multiple developers since it was first approved by state officials in 2003.
Construction ceased in 2009 amid the financial collapse, paving the way for Triple Five to take over the project about two years later. The firm, which owns the iconic Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall, resumed construction in 2014 but has faced its own delays tied to the complex financing formula needed to complete the project.
But even as it worked to close that financing gap, Triple Five has continued to gain commitments from major retailers and operators to help populate the mixed-use destination. Most recently, the firm inked a deal with an operator that would bring an 80,000-square-foot, education-themed entertainment center to the complex, along with entertainment brands such as DreamWorks.
Word that Triple Five had closed on the $1.67 million construction loan was welcome news to proponents of the project. Jim Kirkos, CEO and president of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the news “proves what we have believed since the inception that this amazing project will in fact be completed and will sustain and transform the regional economy here in the Meadowlands for the next 25 years.”
“Projects like this come along once in a lifetime and while it is understandable for skepticism to take over with the many long delays we have experienced, the time has come for us to seize this moment and leverage the economic impact a project like this can have on so many lives,” Kirkos said. “I urge local, county and state leaders to now rally behind this project so we forge a sustained economy through the year 2040.”
The project sits within the Meadowlands Sports Complex, an area overseen by the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. Friday’s news also drew praise from the authority’s chief executive.
“For far too long, we have been saying there is light at the end of the tunnel for the many years this project — through multiple developer groups — has tried to become a reality,” Wayne Hasenbalg, president of the NJSEA, told The Record. “Finally we are nearing the sunlight, and Triple Five has demonstrated they are providing their own resources to back up the commitment they made from day one to bring this exciting project to the state of New Jersey.”