Commercial Real Estate & Advisory

Ghermezian Brothers To Open America’s Biggest Mall In New Jersey In 2014

By Clive Minchom | September 23, 2013

The Canadian Ghermezian brothers, whose Triple Five development company developed and operates two of the most lucrative destination retail centers in the world, finally acquired in July an unfinished mega-mall outside Rutherford in New Jersey, and just across the river from Manhattan. They closed the deal for the project, originally known as Meadowlands Xanadu, after succeeding with protracted negotiations that had begun two years earlier. Under its new owners the mall will proudly wear a new name too, American Dream Meadowlands Mall.

The Ghermezians now plan to go full tilt to finish what will be a 5 million square foot mall by the time they are done, and are already into groundbreaking for the construction work that still remains to do. Then the task will be to fill it up with tenants and, of course, shoppers. Real Estate Weekly is reporting that retail brokerage Sinvin Real Estate has been retained to help them sign up more tenants for what is said to become America’s biggest mall when it finally opens in 2014.

Located outside the town of Rutherford, right beside the New Jersey Turnpike, and within the existing Meadowlands Sports Complex there which is home to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets NFL football teams, the new mall is strategically very close to the city of New York itself and, potentially, to millions of destination shoppers every year.

This is something at which the Germezian brothers have excelled, having already developed the 5.3 million square foot West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the 4.9 million square foot Mall of America in Minneapolis. Both giant centres are hugely successful and bring more than 72 million visitors a year for shopping, tourism and entertainment; the Ghermezians clearly plan to repeat the exercise with their latest venture.

Leasing Success For The New Mall

Stores such as Uniqlo, Topshop, Forever21 and Zara are all reported to be in advanced negotiations to take space now at American Dream Meadowlands, a project that was first started during the last real estate boom in 2004 but tumbled into default during the downturn in 2008 and was then left as an unfinished shell leaving the tenants they had already booked at the time out in the cold, some of whom may have moved on and not kept their reservations.

It seems many of the new tenancies for the mall will be flagship stores, larger than the ones they may already have in Manhattan itself. Zara is said to have a 50,000 square foot footprint in the new mall for example, one of its largest stores anywhere, and Forever21′s new store planned is said to be at least as large as its existing Times Square location, which is already a 100,000 square foot flagship store.

Such reported new tenants, widely regarded as key brands to have in any new mall appealing to mass-market and fashion conscious shoppers alike, may now have provided a key positive turning point for success for the new complex. They also give a clear indication that the new centre may indeed be able to attract shoppers who might otherwise just take a trip into Manhattan.

Not Just a Mall An Entertainment Complex As Well

But the Ghermezians’ plans go far beyond that, as they will be planning to lure shoppers and tourists from Manhattan itself to their mall as well, and from lots of other places too, which is how the West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America have hugely succeeded- bringing visitors from all over the heartlands by the plane load.

Given the Ghermezian brothers’ flare for showmanship it will come as no surprise that Cirque du Soleil (who are also Canadian) may be lined up perform shows at the new centre, which will have a full range of attractions, including an indoor ski hill and the largest Ferris wheel in the United States. All in keeping with the concept of the centre as a destination for shopping and entertainment just like the Ghermezians’ two other mega malls.

Just to list some of the attractions that are expected to be offered; these presently are planned to include an indoor ice rink, a DreamWorks indoor amusement park, an indoor ski and snowboarding hill, an indoor water park, a 26 screen movie-plex, an indoor Legoland Discovery centre and a 3,000 seat concert hall.

The entire Meadowlands project is built on land owned by the State of New Jersey, and over US$80 million was spent on transportation improvements such as new off and on-ramps at the junction of the highway, and even a brand new train station right at the Sports Complex which will bring visitors from all parts – including direct from Manhattan in just a few minutes.

The Obligatory Law Suit Against The New Mall

Nevertheless the New York Giants, and their co-tenants in the new MetLife football stadium within the Sports Complex, the New York Jets, have filed suit against the idea of the mall being allowed to remain open on game days, in order to minimize the expected larger traffic jams, they assert, and which are likely to be pretty bad to begin with.

The two football teams recognize that the mall will be closed on Sundays anyway due to existing local shopping laws, but note that the amusement parks will not, thus potentially adding to traffic jams on game days. Between 20,000 and 25,000 cars park at the complex on game day, and the teams estimate that another 7,000 or so cars may still come to the mall on top of this.

The Ghermazians themselves deny this, asserting that locals will stay away on game days anyway and that tourists from New York will mostly come by train to the station right on site, without adding to traffic jams at all. This suit is still pending but it does not seem to have stopped the Ghermezians from now charging ahead.

The abandoned Meadowlands Xanadu mall has been an eyesore for those driving by years now, and it presently remains an ugly confection of shapes, colours and textures that no one is happy with. One can readily infer that when it is finally finished and up and running, with a brand new paint and architectural scheme to correct its existing chaotic appearance, then customers may indeed flock to it. With the Ghermezians in charge this is now looking increasingly likely.