A new ‘mega mall’ called the American Dream complex has just opened in New Jersey. Housing over 500 shops and restaurants, American Dream includes a 16-story indoor ski slope, a roller coaster and a water park.
Covering 3 million square feet, American Dream is the second largest mall in the country and the third largest in North America. Expected to attract over 40 million visitors within its first year, its website states that, ‘American Dream is a revolutionary, first of its kind community for fashion and luxury retail, fine to casual dining and an array of unexpected entertainment.’
Don Ghermezian, CEO of American Dream is quoted as saying ‘American Dream is an extraordinary and inclusive community that will mean something different to everyone who visits, whether they are residents of the area or traveling from abroad. With all of its unique components, this destination will be the realization of our guests’ wildest dreams.”
American Dream promises that ‘no two visits will ever be the same’, drawing on their state of the art digital mobile capability to help visitors navigate around the venue. Keen to tap into an increasingly digitally-savvy audience, American Dream will also offer hyper-personalized, on demand experiences through their American Dream app.
The development comes at a time when the high street is facing significant strain following the boom in ecommerce. In fact, according to real estate research firm CoStar Group, there have been only 9 malls built since 2015. American Dream plans to counteract this through its plans for 55% of the space to be used for entertainment, which will in part relieve some of the pressure on retail trade alone.
American Dream is reportedly planning to cater to a wide range of tastes with its portfolio of attractions, which include a bunny field, an aviary, and doggy day care. For the more prestigious customer, there is a luxury wing where shoppers can relax and enjoy champagne and caviar whilst waiting for their shopping to be wrapped.
American Dream is not just your average mall. Many believe it holds a unique offering and it has been designed to help bring local communities together.
Given its size and variety of experiences on offer, American Dream is being marketed as a ‘staycation’ experience, thereby drawing visitors from all over the country to indulge in its unique offering. It is situated just five miles from Manhattan, adjacent to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and offers guests 33,000 parking spaces. It is accessible by a NJ Transit bus hub on-site, as well as a hub for tour operators and there is a NJ Transit station on-site. Future plans include an NY Waterway ferry service from Manhattan to Port Imperial Weehawken with connecting dedicated shuttles to American Dream and a taxi and ride-share hub located on-site.
It has also been designed with flexibility in mind, meaning that it can cater to different trends and events long after building work has been completed. Examples of this include the court’s fountain which can be converted into a catwalk for a fashion show. Equally, the space dedicated to the ice rink can rapidly be repurposed as a concert venue, essential for bringing in the crowds out of hours.
Despite having an optimistic future, American Dream has faced a number of challenges over the years and it has taken some time to finally be in a position to open its doors to the public. Initially called Xanadu by its former owners, the project ground to a halt in 2009 following the financial crisis. Creditors seized the project a year later and in 2011, Canada-based Triple Five took ownership and decided to rebrand it American Dream.
Triple Five were well placed to drive forward the vision for American Dream, given their expertise and success with two of the largest malls in North America, West Edmonton in Canada, and Bloomington in Minnesota. Both of these malls relied heavily on entertainment and it is this same model that has been applied to American Dream.
Despite the owners’ previous mall successes, many remain skeptical of whether American Dream will really be able to deliver on its promises now its doors are open. The retail sector remains turbulent and American Dream will always be a destination venue; people have to be enticed to physically want to travel there. Some have also suggested that its close proximity to a more enticing Manhattan will prove its downfall. There is also some question over how successful retailers there will be when many of the brands already have a strong presence elsewhere. Adding to this is the requirement to abide by blue laws and close all retail shops on Sundays, although the restaurants and theme parks will remain unaffected.
That said, American Dream is not just your average mall. Many believe it holds a unique offering and it has been designed to help bring local communities together. Amidst all of the doom and gloom, you’ve got to have a dream. Maybe this one is it.