Gov. Chris Christie spoke Monday at the site of the American Dream project in the Meadowlands. — Courtesy: NJ Office of Information Technology
By Joshua Burd
The massive American Dream project is “progressing vigorously” in East Rutherford, Gov. Chris Christie proclaimed Monday, as he visited the site and sought to promote the outsized economic impact of the long-stalled retail and entertainment complex.
Christie, who is due to leave office in January, returned to the site to meet with construction workers and tout his administration’s economic growth policies. In doing so, he reiterated the completion date recently set by Triple Five Group, the developer of the nearly 3 million-square-foot project.
“So after this project languished during previous administrations and a few other bumps along the way on our own, this project is progressing vigorously and a new completion date is scheduled for March 2019,” Christie said, “and I’m thrilled to come up here as a private citizen at that point and see the results of the hard work that this administration has put in with our partners.
“Best part for me is that it is going to be built by New Jersey workers and New Jersey contractors.”
Construction resumed this summer after Triple Five assembled a nearly $3 billion financing package to complete the project, including the sale of $1.1 billion in tax-exempt bonds and a $1.67 billion construction loan. The milestone brought new life to a notoriously delayed project that has seen various setbacks over the course of more than a decade.
Triple Five took over what was then known as Xanadu in 2011 and has enjoyed broad support from state officials under Christie. That support includes a $390 million reimbursement grant under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program, which Christie said will generate a nine-to-one return via the project’s estimated $3.5 billion in tax revenue over its first 20 years of operation.
The other figures touted by the governor on Monday include 23,000 construction jobs and more than 16,000 at the American Dream site. He also said development and construction of the complex will generate upwards of $80 million dollars in tax revenue for the state, up to $70 million in sales tax revenue on construction materials and nearly $10 million in corporate business taxes.
Christie was joined on Monday by developer Jon Hanson, his top adviser on the project, and executives with the development team. Paul Ghermezian, the chief operating officer of Triple Five, alluded to American Dream’s large entertainment component — including partnerships with operators such as DreamWorks — and said it will be the type of attraction that allows large mixed-use centers to thrive in today’s retail environment.
The developer has showed that at its other signature projects at the West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America in Minnesota, he said.
“In the new age of online … and when everyone talks about experiential and how people are talking about bringing entertainment to their centers, I believe that we truly defined what that is and what that means to a level that no one else in the world really has,” Ghermezian said, according to a report by NJTV.