‘Dream’ now closer to reality


The long-delayed American Dream retail and entertainment complex planned for the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford has gotten a big boost, now that the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority has approved the sale of $350 million in bonds to help complete the 91-acre project.

The NJSEA board voted Aug. 13 to authorize the bond issue and to retain the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Melliott, and Robert I. Tuteur in particular, as bond counsel to advise the board on the transaction for a fee “not to exceed $425,000 to be paid from bond proceeds.”

A press release issued by the NJSEA said that neither taxpayers nor the NJSEA would be on the hook for repayment of the bonds “as a result of the award of the state Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant (ERG) [of $390 million] approved [last] week by the state Economic Development Authority. All risk will be assumed by bondholders.”

EDA spokeswoman Virginia Pellerin said that, “The taxexempt bonds approved by the NJSEA would be repaid through 75% of incremental tax revenue generated by the American Dream project, to be reimbursed by the ERG grant after verification that the taxes were paid. …

“The project is expected to generate more than $88 million in incremental direct annual average gross income, sales and other eligible taxes.”

Total project costs, according to an Aug. 11 memo to the EDA board from EDA President/COO Timothy Lizura, “are estimated to be” nearly $3.2 billion. The developer, Triple Five, “will need to invest a minimum of $2.87 billion in order to achieve the full $390 million [EDA grant] award,” Lizura’s memo said.

While the property is taxexempt, Triple Five has agreed to a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) arrangement with the municipality of East Rutherford, Pellerin said. “This PILOT is associated with the Redevelopment Area Bond with the municipality.”

According to Lizura’s memo, the developer will be redeveloping about “2.89 million square feet of leasable retail/ restaurant space accounting for about three quarters of the project’s gross leasable area,” with six anchor tenants (50,000 square feet or more), 12 majors (20,000 to 49,900 square feet), 339 small shops (up to 19,999 square feet), 21 restaurants, 45 specialty food tenants, 20 food court tenants and five kiosks.

“The retail component will also include an additional 25,000 square feet of leasable space for self-operated entertainment anchors including a movie theater, a performing arts center, a snow dome, an observation wheel, miniature golf and an ice rink,” the memo says.

There will be a total of 346,100 square feet of amusement space next to the retail portion, “which will include an indoor amusement park and water park.” Triple Five has signed a 7-year licensing agreement with DreamWorks Animation LLC for the amusement and water parks.

Since prior designs were submitted in November 2013, “there is a net increase of 330,615 square feet in gross leasable space [while, at the same time], total project … costs have also risen by $820 million … from the originally approved budgeted amounts.”

The project site will accommodate parking for 7,850 vehicles with four parking structures and grade-level parking, all of which will be managed by the developer. The developer will also share with MetLife Stadium events, an additional 2,900 parking spaces in temporary lots and 21,475 parking spaces surrounding the stadium within the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Construction of the retail/ restaurant/entertainment portion of the project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017 and the amusement/ waterfront, “shortly thereafter before the end of 2017.”

The EDA is projecting that the project will generate 5,810 construction jobs and 10,580 permanent jobs.

– Ron Leir 

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