As the $2.9 billion American Dream Meadowlands ramps up to a two-shift construction schedule to finish in time for a spring 2019 grand opening, the business community and officials in Bergen County are showing renewed interest.
Paul Ghermezian, chief operating officer of developer Triple Five, spoke to a crowd of at least 400 on Wednesday at the Bergen Business Expo, highlighting key features of the project, and reinforcing the optimism and confidence with which his family has invested in the 8-acre experience.
The mix of entertainment and retail, 55 percent and 45 percent, respectively, poses a number of potential opportunities for the surrounding community within the 3 million-square-foot experience.
These opportunities, Ghermezian said, need to be special.
“Our tenants are required to have an experience in their store,” Ghermezian said. “And this is more than just retail. This is unique products, unique buildouts and really creating a brand personality.”
Debbie Patire, senior vice president of marketing, said potential tenants have been turned down for lack of vision for an experience or future at American Dream.
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco recently took a tour and said he remains bullish about the project.
“I had to be convinced that the past isn’t going to be the future,” he said.
The attention to detail is key to why Tedesco remains optimistic.
“When we went behind the amusements, behind the curtain, we saw how they recycle, how they treat the environment, how they treat their workers,” he said. “While they’re in it to be in business, they also care about the people, and they care about the environment they are in. And we talked to the people in Bloomington, and (they) just rave about what (Mall of America) has done for the city.
“So, when you look at that and then make it Bergen County — that’s what convinced me.”
Ghermezian also told the crowd the indoor water park was going to be one of the biggest in the world, and 30 percent bigger than the one at the West Edmonton Mall in Canada.
Ghermezian said the company has spent $1.62 billion on construction, which is 56 percent complete, and is spending roughly $75 million per month. And it has generated $148 million in taxes for the state, according to Ghermezian.
Meadowlands Regional Chamber CEO and President Jim Kirkos is all in on the project.
Kirkos said bringing in flagship stores of struggling retail brands in an online era is not a concern.
“I’m not a designer guy, either, I’m not shopping at the collections, but they are going to have other, regular stores,” he said. “The number of international visitors that comes over is going to be the big piece for them.”
The anticipated draw of visitors is largely from residents and tourists within 50 miles, Patire said.
Kirkos added that Triple Five has renewed the potential for the New Jersey Hall of Fame to be housed in American Dream, and that discussions are ongoing.