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‘Much more sophisticated feel’ promised for American Dream

A rendering of the court inside American Dreams Meadowlands (Courtesy ProMedia Productions Inc.)

Canadian conglomerate Triple Five owns and operates the two largest malls in North America — the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Mall of America in Minneapolis — but the company is now seeking to outdo its previous efforts by building what would be the largest shopping center in the world, the American Dream Meadowlands.

Upon full buildout, the project, formerly known as Xanadu, will total 7.5 million square feet of space, including 3 million square feet of retail and amusement space, as well as 4.5 million square feet of planned hotels, convention center, performing arts center, sports center and additional venues.

Triple Five said it is planning to invest $1.5 billion in the retail and amusement components of the complex, which has already cost $2 billion; Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the state has pledged $200 million in financing from the state Economic Development Authority.

The first phase of the project will encompass the 2 million-square-foot existing building, which is scheduled to open fall of 2013, as well as new features such as indoor amusement and water parks, which would open by the first half of 2014, according to Paul Ghermezian, senior vice president at Triple Five, speaking during a media tour of the project site on Tuesday.

The subsequent phases “will be many years in the making,” said Triple Five spokesman Dan Jasper.

The American Dream name has a personal significance for Triple Five, which was started by “a family of immigrants,” said Ghermezian. His uncle Nader Ghermezian, Triple Five’s chairman, and other family members “came here looking for the American Dream … and they achieved it.”

The existing building will undergo a number of significant changes, chief among them a new exterior. “There will be a drastic difference in the exterior,” which will prominently feature the color blue, on top of the existing multicolored exterior, which is part of the structure, said Paul Ghermezian. “You’ll notice very little of the existing building [façade].”

The retail portions of the building will be overhauled with new colors, floors and finishes, he said. “There will be a much more sophisticated feel.”

Some sections will remain relatively unchanged, such as the “sports court,” where visitors can watch live broadcasts of games from the New Meadowlands Stadium, and which will feature lighting that will change to reflect the team colors of the New York Giants and Jets football teams. The ski slope has been completed and is operational, he said.

The retail section of the existing building had been designed to accommodate three anchor tenants, although that could change depending on the leases signed, said Paul Ghermezian. He declined to elaborate on discussions with retailers, but said outdoor sporting goods retailer Cabela’s, which previously signed on as an anchor tenant at Xanadu, was not returning as a tenant.

Jill Renslow, vice president of marketing at Triple Five, said the company is seeking tenants that “will complement the marketplace,” given the abundance of existing retail in the area. Triple Five plans to talk with multiple retailers later this month during the International Council of Shopping Centers’ conference in Las Vegas, where American Dream will be showcased alongside the company’s other malls, she said.

American Dream will include 12,000 “walk-up” parking spots, which directly connect to the complex, and an additional 25,000 “overflow” parking spaces, said Ghermezian.

The indoor amusement and water parks will be built where three nonoperational radio towers currently stand, while the Ferris wheel will be erected off to the side of those attractions, said Paul Ghermezian. Both of those park concepts have been successful at the West Edmonton Mall, he said. “This is more than just a dream, it’s a reality,” he said. “You can see that we’ve done it … and we’re going to do it again.”

E-mail Evelyn Lee at