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Home / Business / American Dream, the second largest shopping mall in the United States, opens in New Jersey, along with Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park

American Dream, the second largest shopping mall in the United States, opens in New Jersey, along with Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – More than two decades ago, when a mega entertainment and shopping complex was conceived on a large swampy land in New Jersey, the iPhone didn't exist, Amazon only sold books online and malls were where you went for all your shopping needs.

Now, after endless passes and starts and billions of dollars spent, American Dream officially opens its doors to the public as the second largest shopping mall in the country, and the third largest in North America. It will showcase 3 million square feet of rental space dedicated to more than a dozen entertainment attractions such as a 16-storey indoor ski slope, roller coaster, water park and, eventually, 450 stores, food and specialty stores.

The big question is: Who will come?

In today's retail landscape, consumers are glued to their iPhones and smartphones, where they can shop without ever leaving the couch. Amazon has become the largest online retailer in the world. And overall shopping mall traffic, which had increased in the late 1

990s, has been down 10% since, according to an estimate by Coresight Research.

A report from Credit Suisse published two years ago predicted that up to a quarter of malls will close by 2022 given the growing popularity of online shopping and a rash of store closures. Since 2015, only nine malls have been built, a dramatic fall from the 1973 peak of 43, according to CoStar Group, a real estate research firm.

In the midst of the new reality, American Dream wants to attract 45 million to 50 million visitors in its first year. Entertainment will make up more than half of the space, including attractions such as a bunny field and an aviary. There will also be a doggy nursery and a luxury wing where shoppers can sip champagne and try caviar while waiting for their designer handbags to be wrapped.

"You can make it your playground in the garden if you live in Manhattan or even If you're in New Jersey," says Ken Downing, creative director of Triple Five Group, the mall's developer. "It's a staycation. So it is a bit to compete with the mindset and emotion, far more than a property or even Disneyland. "

During the opening on Friday, which was limited to a few thousand visitors, the smell of saw dust and sound from electric drills served as a reminder that the American Dream is still a work in progress. Only two of the main entertainment attractions were open: an ice rink and Nickelodeon Theme Park, although not all the rides were running.

American Dream will not be fully operational until the next The complex will uncover the rest of the attractions such as the ski slopes and water parks at the end of the year; shops and restaurants will open in March. his wife Tammy took a spin on one of the mountains and the coaster, along with other state officials.

"The attraction is this," said Giovanni Scolaro, who lives in Elmwood Park nearby heat, New Jersey, and pointed to the amusement park. "I have a seven-year-old child and grandson. This is going to be a draw."

Canada-based shopping mall and entertainment conglomerate Triple Five in 2011 took over the huge project originally called Xanadu from two developers, whose plans included building the world's largest Ferris wheel. The idea was envisaged in the late 1990s, but the project did not break ground until 2004.

It lubricated during its early years, and the multicolored, checkerboard exterior – since it was removed – drew disgust. Then-New Jersey governor Chris Christie called it "an offense to the eyes" and "the ugliest fucking building in New Jersey and maybe America."

The project was suspended in 2009 during the financial crisis after a Lehmann Bros. subsidiary failed to finance its share of the construction. Creditors grabbed the project in 2010, and Triple Five came on board a year later, renaming it American Dream.

Triple Five reimagined American Dream as a community center for tourists and locals, taking a page from two other malls it had developed: West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada and Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota – the two largest shopping malls in the North -America. Entertainment was a major selling point for both, making up 20% of West Edmonton Mall's space and 30% of Mall of America's. This compares with the average of 6% for US malls, according to CoStar.

Don Ghermezian, CEO of American Dream and president of Triple Five, said that when he took over the site, he understood what was going to happen in retail and knew he needed to make an even bigger statement with American Dream.

"Everyone talks about the future of retail and the future of entertainment, and how to merge the two," Ghermezian said, during a brief press event. "But it is not really a center on the planet that has done it to the extent we have done here."

Ghermezian told The Associated Press that he expects American Dream to outperform sales at both West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America, with sales of more than $ 2 billion a year. But there are a good number of skeptics who are wondering about the mall's chances of success, especially given its proximity to New York City less than 10 miles away.

"This trend will either sink or swim," said Jason Goldberg, chief commercial strategy manager for Publicis Communications. "It's going to be hard to get a lot of attention when you're at a much larger theme park – Manhattan."

Goldberg thinks the complex can work if the theme park attracts enough families in New Jersey to get in their cars and drive out there. But he is not sure how it will go in stores, since many of the tenants such as Zara and Uniqlo can be found elsewhere. Another thorny situation: The mall will follow the blue laws, which means retail will be closed on Sundays, even though restaurants and theme parks will be open, says James Cassella, Mayor of Rutherford, NJ.

There is still hope. While vacancies on average in the country's shopping malls are currently 4%, top centers have been the industry's bright spot, with strong traffic and an average of 2% unemployment on average, says CoStar. This is compared to the bottom of shopping malls, which break with an average unemployment rate of 7%.

Olivia Marino-Myers of Nutley, New Jersey brought her 4-year-old daughter to American Dream on Friday, visiting the ice rink and cycling some rides.

"I do a lot of online shopping. I don't go to the mall that much," she said. "I think this can bring me back."

Copyright © 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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