The developer planning to revive the failed Xanadu project as American Dream Meadowlands hopes to secure its full slate of financing for the plan by early summer, a spokeswoman for the firm said today.
The company, Canada-based Triple Five, is still lining up a complicated $1.8 billion financing plan for the project and working through an environmental review process for a portion of the site, said the spokeswoman, Jill Renslow. Completion of those segments, especially the financing, will allow the firm to immediately focus on leasing and remaining construction at the East Rutherford site.
“Once the financing is in place, it really puts leasing pedal to the metal,” Renslow said, speaking after the annual NJBIZ Real Estate Symposium. “We’re moving forward with that, and it’s really going to be our focus for this year, because once we can get all of our partners lined up and fill up the retail spaces, we have to do the tenant build-outs.”
She added that the company has a pipeline of retailers and tenants for the massive shopping and entertainment complex, “but we can’t execute leases until we close on the project.” The tenants will include a blend of “boutique retail and European retail, unique entertainment that is not in this marketplace already,” Renslow said.
Renslow also confirmed today that the full complex will not be open by the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. A water park and amusement park component, which is the subject of the environmental review, will not be open by the February 2014 event, she said.
“The key factor is the building that’s already existing,” she said, referring the incomplete, multicolored-exterior structure that has stood at the site for several years. “Being able to get that complete and open would be key.”
But Triple Five expects to offer tours of what’s to come when thousands of visitors flood the Meadowlands area for the Super Bowl, Renslow said. She pointed to a similar strategy in 1992, when Minneapolis hosted Super Bowl XXVI as the company’s Mall of America was under construction.
Earlier in the day, Renslow was on a panel titled “The Future of New Jersey Leisure, Gaming and Entertainment Industries.” She and other panelists discussed the economic impacts of the state’s plan to revitalize Atlantic City, along with upcoming sporting events like the Formula One Grand Prix and Wrestlemania in the Meadowlands region next year.
Wayne Hasenbalg, the recently appointed president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, said New Jersey has landed those high-profile events through open channels in the Chris Christie administration. But he said there is a need for a more focused, centralized state entity to capitalize on all of the state’s facilities and attract future events.
“I think there is a need for somebody or some entity to be responsible for identifying all of those assets and then making sure that they’re leveraged in a way that has great economic impact on the state,” said Hasenbalg, who hinted that such a plan is in the works.
The symposium also featured a panel on revitalizing urban New Jersey, featuring public officials from some of the state’s most active municipalities for economic development. The panelists, including state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), discussed the role of incentive programs like the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program in urban renewal, but also impediments — like Council on Affordable Housing regulations.
Buono, who is co-sponsoring a bill to raise the Urban Transit Hub tax credit cap by $1 billion, said the four-year-old program has “essentially saved the construction industry in the short term” in New Jersey. She said lawmakers should eventually consider expanding the program beyond the nine eligible cities, but added that “our focus now has to be on replenishing” the dwindling tax credit bank.
“I’m told that there’s some suggestion that we wait until we pass the budget,” Buono said. “I don’t think we can wait.”