The owners of a massive new shopping complex are convinced of success. But has Americas once-great retail format simply had its day?
On a dreary Tuesday morning shortly before Christmas, two passengers boarded the 9.30am 355 bus from New Yorks Port Authority bus terminal bound for American Dream, the most ambitious new mall to be built in the US in a generation. One was a mall worker who didnt want to talk to the media; the other was me.
Depending on who you speak to, American Dream, the optimistically named $5bn mall-slash-entertainment center under construction in New Jerseys Meadowlands is either the future of shopping and a soon-to-be tourism mecca, or its an environmental disaster, taxpayer ripoff and a hubristic folly gambling on a retail format that has had its day.
Only time will tell who is right, but after 23 years of false starts, and amid a clearout of the retail sector that would make Marie Kondo shudder, Triple Five, the owner of American Dream, is confident that soon 40 million people a year or more will flock to the a 3m-sq-ft mall to surf in its wave pool, ski and snowboard on its indoor slopes, ride its rollercoasters, play with sting-rays in the aquarium and shop, shop, shop.
Critics are less convinced. Meadowlands, a toxic marsh and mafia dumping ground that features in the opening credits of The Sopranos, has long proved a graveyard for other ambitious projects.
The mall, under different ownership, was once called Xanadu and suffered so many false starts locals called it Xanadont. The former New Jersey governor Chris Christie called the project the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America.