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08/02/2021

2021's Top 10 Retail Experiences: No. 2 American Dream

Chain Store Age picks physical retail's most engaging centers
Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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Don Ghermezian’s decade-long crusade to re-mold Mills Corp.’s multicolored Xanadu project in the Jersey Meadowlands into the sparkling white theme park and retail realm called American Dream was not what could be called a great experience. After weathering construction delays, financial issues—even a debt restructuring of Mall of America, which the Ghermezian family’s Triple 5 posted as collateral on American Dream’s mortgage—the 3 million sq. ft. mega-center finally opened in the fall of 2019. 

Just in time to get shut down by the first global pandemic in 100 years.

The experience of the thousands of visitors packing American Dream, however, has been much more positive. While they’re currently more locally sourced than Ghermezian had planned, they still buy out his Dreamworks water park with the biggest wave pool in the U.S., his Nickelodeon theme park with the steepest coaster descent, and his Big Snow ski lodge, America’s first indoor ski slope. A few months after Dreamworks opened, more rides had to be added to keep the lines moving. 

“To be perfectly candid, we’re selling out and we’re at about 25% of what our potential is,” said Ghermezian. “We have just 11 entertainment concepts open. When we’re complete, we will have 23 different entertainment concepts. We just signed a 45,000 square-foot lease with Hasbro, which will be putting its first full-scale entertainment center in American Dream.”

Two other very important components of the American Dream concept have been missing as well—a white-tablecloth restaurant wing and the luxury retail center.  An opening has been scheduled for the latter on Sept. 30, with Hermès, Saint Laurent, Tiffany & Co., and Saks Fifth Avenue debuting at the Meadowlands. 

Ghermezian says six or seven restaurants should be open by October, led by Carpaccio in September. Plus, 70 yet-to-arrive new tenants are under contract in different sectors of the center.

“We’re doing this all without international tourism.  A lot of the business is coming in from New York, but more is from Jersey, within a 50-mile radius,” he said. “When all of these ideas become reality, they all will be pushing traffic into retail.”

Stay tuned for daily profiles of the next eight centers. Until then, catch up on what you missed:

No. 1 Easton Town Center