Wrapping up two decades in the making, the first phase of North America’s newest megamall has opened to the public today. The American Dream complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, offers 4.5 million square feet of space for retail, dining, and entertainment. While phase one presents a limited number of attractions, they are beyond what you might expect from a shopping mall; its Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park features more than 35 rides and rollercoasters while the NHL-regulation-size skating rink offers ample space for hockey games and figure skating. Later phases of American Dream, with openings staggered from next month through spring 2020, include the DreamWorks Water Park, which boasts over 40 waterslides and the world’s largest wave pool. The long-awaited Big SNOW, an indoor snow park, will allow guests to hit the slopes any day of the year. More than 500 retail shops will be the final installment, slated to open in March. However, the shops will only be open six days per week due to Bergen County’s series of “blue laws,” which have been in place for centuries and prohibit shopping on Sundays. The timeline of American Dream traces back to 1996 when business developer The Mills Corp. proposed a shopping and entertainment complex on the land parcel. After numerous changes in ownership, Alberta-based Triple Five Group, which owns and operates the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, completed the $5-billion project. The complex is located five miles west of Manhattan, and American Dream offers ferry service as well as NJ Transit hubs on-site in addition to its 33,000 parking spaces. AN is set to visit the site soon and will follow up this article with an official review.
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Canadian mall developer Triple Five has bet big on bolstering brick-and-mortar retail this year; first, it was a pitch for a $200-million waterpark at Minnesota’s Mall of America, then approval of their 500-acre American Dream Miami, set to become the largest mall in the country in May. Now Triple Five has released new details of its American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which is finally set to open in March of 2019 after 16 years of delays. At a whopping 4.5 million square feet, American Dream will be smaller than its Miami-based cousin but still large enough to contain the western hemisphere’s largest indoor ski slope, a 253-foot-wide “observation wheel," a regulation-sized skating rink, and an eight-acre “Nickelodeon Universe” park. The mall will sit right next to MetLife Stadium, just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan and eastern New Jersey, and Triple Five is expecting 30 to 40 million visitors a year and will run direct buses from the Port Authority in Manhattan and NJ Transit stops. As the opening date approaches, new details about the mall have been coming progressively faster; earlier this week, it was revealed that there will be a MUNCHIES-branded food hall in the complex (MUNCHIES is VICE’s food vertical), alongside a separate kosher food hall and several other standalone restaurants. The mall will also play host to Big Snow America, an 800-foot-long, 16-story indoor ski slope complete with a chalet and ice-climbing wall to be open year-round. Triple Five is also matching their Nickelodeon theme park with an eight-acre Dreamworks-themed water park, both of which will sit inside climate-controlled glass domes. Still, it remains to be seen if American Dream can capture shoppers’ imaginations in the same way that the Mall of America does, which attracts over 40 million visitors a year. Physical retail has been in a downslide for years, especially malls, which are sitting abandoned or being converted to other uses.
On May 7, the largest mall in the country received approval from the Miami-Dade county planning board. The approximately 500-acre project, dubbed The American Dream Miami, is led by Canadian developer, Triple Five. The $4 billion, 6-million-square-foot entertainment center’s design includes features such as an artificial ski slope, an indoor water park, and submarine rides. Located 200 miles from Disney World, the American Dream is hoping to provide a competitive alternative in closer proximity to southern Floridians. Ringed by the I-75, the Florida Turnpike, and a band of palm trees, Triple Five’s design rises as a singular mass punctured by high-rise glass hotels, rooftop components and undulating glass skylights. However, according to the Sun Sentinel, scores of malls in the area oppose the project as it threatens to inundate an already saturated retail complex market. Located over five miles from the nearest Metrorail stop, the Miami Herald reports that the developer has agreed to invest in its own bus depot and fund the extension of preexisting bus lines to The American Dream. Regardless of this transit overture, the sprawling complex will be highly reliant on the adjacent I-75 and Florida’s Turnpike to accommodate the estimated 100,000 daily vehicle trips generated by visitors and employees. Although malls across the country are closing shop, Triple Five is also moving forward with a 3 million square-foot entertainment complex in East Rutherford, Jersey. In total, these two new projects will bring Triple Five’s portfolio up to four locations, including Bloomington, Minnesota’s Mall of America which currently holds the title for the third largest mall in America. While Triple Five has received approval from the county planning board, the developer still has to secure new zoning variances, additional financing and propose storm water runoff infrastructure. The project will be subject to a final vote on May 17.
Bigger developments are targeting Logan Square lately, sparking local debates about what direction is best for the majority Latino neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side. Over at Curbed Chicago, Logan Square resident AJ LaTrace has been hitting the hyperlocal beat hard. Lately he scooped renderings from the online forum Skyscraper page that were later confirmed to be proposals for the redevelopment of the Discount Mega Mall on Milwaukee Avenue into a glassy 2.55-acre shopping center. As Curbed reported, Cushman & Wakefield have previously listed the property on their website, but now developers Terraco are apparently eyeing the 130,680-square-foot space, formerly home to a year-round flea market and two small surface parking lots. The new development is dubbed "Logan's Crossing," according to Curbed, and documents from Terraco and Sierra U.S. Commercial Real Estate advertise it as being "In Chicago's Hottest Neighborhood." That boast is no surprise to those who have followed the accelerating pace of new developments in the neighborhood lately. But some neighbors are wary of that trend. We reported in the August issue of AN’s Midwest Edition that plans for an urban orchard and new public plaza are moving forward after years of delays. Other developments include new condos that are under construction a few blocks south, and plans to revamp the park around the Illinois Centennial Monument—the neighborhood’s focal point, which links Logan and Kedzie Boulevards. Two projects under the city’s new transit-oriented development ordinance (also covered in our August issue) are meeting resistance from some neighborhood residents, who argue the new towers are out of scale with two- and three-story buildings nearby. Those projects include a nascent proposal for an empty lot near the California Blue Line stop from the team that built 1611 W. Division—a low-parking apartment tower in West Town designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects—and a Brininstool+Lynch project just north of the vacant Congress Theater. Both projects are several stories above the current neighborhood scale, but supporters have argued increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic along Milwaukee Avenue merit upzoning. Neighbors are not just concerned about height issues, however. Though still predominantly Latino, the area’s white population has grown in recent years, enflaming tensions over gentrification and soaring rents that are familiar to residents of neighboring Wicker Park and Humboldt Park. Anxieties about the neighborhood's quickly changing character came to a head over the Milshire Hotel, a local SRO residence that was facing closure earlier this year. A city-wide moratorium on shutting down or demolishing SROs saved the building, some of whose residents may have gone homeless if it had been suddenly shuttered.