New Jersey's American Dream will open next year, developer says

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The bond-funded American Dream New Jersey megamall is on track to debut in the first half of 2019, its developer says.

Lincoln Palsgrove, vice president of communications for American Dream and the developer, Triple Five Group, said 68% of the project is completed and a spring 2019 opening is planned with a more specific date to be determined by January. He said about 80% of the planned retail stores have been leased and that the project’s focus on adding unique entertainment options should be a draw for the local area and tourists.

“[It’s] 55 percent entertainment, 45 percent retail and culinary – different mix than tradition shopping destination,” Palsgrove told reporters during a tour of the American Dream construction site Tuesday. “We are going to have great connectivity with the region working with [New Jersey] Transit in making sure everything is set up day one.”

The American Dream’s targeted spring 2019 opening would fall 15 years after the ambitious project in East Rutherford first broke ground under previous developer, Xanadu, before encountering a myriad of delays. Former Gov. Chris Christie projected a year ago that American Dream would create an average of $3.5 billion in tax revenue paid to the state over the first 20 years of operation.

To help bring the mall to the finish line, Goldman Sachs led a $1.1 billion tax-exempt revenue bond transaction in June 2017 that was backed by a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between Triple Five Group and the borough of East Rutherford. The unrated deal featured $800 million of limited obligation revenue bonds and $287 million of grant revenue bonds supported by anticipated sales tax revenue.

"For many, this American Dream has been a dream long deferred,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press conference Tuesday at the construction site next to MetLife Stadium. “But because of the work of Triple Five, county and local leaders and the men and women of organized labor, it is a dream that is finally coming to fruition.”

Just prior to the bond sale, Triple Five secured $1.6 billion in private construction loans from JPMorgan. Wisconsin’s Public Finance Authority borrowed as a conduit issuer for New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which operates the Meadowlands District where the project is housed. Triple Five previously planned to issue taxable bonds through the borough of East Rutherford and NJSEA, but instead opted for the tax-exempt route through the PFA due to market shifts.

American Dream planners are projecting more than 40 million visits annually by drawing from more than 19.5 million residents within a 50-mile radius and a tourism base of more than 65 million visitors that travel to the New York City metropolitan area yearly. In the lead up to last year’s bond sale, Triple Five aggressively promoted entertainment aspects of the project that are highlighted by an indoor water park, amusement park, ski facility and performing arts center as well as an outdoor observation wheel with views of the nearby Manhattan skyline. The group also runs the Mall of America in Minneapolis and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall.

“When opened this will be an economic engine for the Meadowlands District, Bergen County and the state of New Jersey,” said East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella. “If all goes according to plan thousands of visitors a day will be spending money at local hotels and other businesses, which will certainly be financially beneficial to not only the local municipalities, but the region and the state as well.”

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Revenue bonds Wisconsin Public Finance Authority New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority New Jersey