The American Dream Mall, the $5 billion experiential retail bet in the New Jersey Meadowlands, finally appears to be reaching critical mass after the pandemic and skepticism over the project has delayed efforts to fulfill its most of 3 million square feet of leasable space with tenants.
The power center’s ongoing financial problems don’t seem to be stopping it from attracting new tenants and opening new attractions. Rental announcements and recent openings indicate that the momentum may be turning in favor of the mall, nearly three years after it first opened to the public.
This week, the mall reached a long-delayed milestone – the opening of The Food Hall at American Dream. While the Food Hall is much smaller than the dining experience originally envisioned for the project, it’s another sign that the mall’s developers are getting closer to delivering on their promise of a mall-like experience. totally different.
The 10,000 square foot Food Hall, with just five vendors ready to serve on opening day, with two more due to open in the coming months, is about a quarter the size of the huge themed food hall from Vice Media and Munchie. mall developers had announced before the American Dream was beset by lengthy construction delays and a pandemic. But it offers different kinds of shopping mall dining experiences – a food court designed for adults and foodies.
The Food Hall’s most unusual feature is currently Vinoteca, an automated wine tasting bar that allows patrons to pay by the ounce to sample 64 different bottles using a machine that dispenses 1-ounce pours , 3 oz and 5 oz. Vinoteca also sells small-plate Italian options like paninis and charcuterie boards.
The Food Hall space includes sofas and conversation seats, as well as places to play oversized Jenga and Connect 4 games, foosball, video games, and a fake lawn set up for cornhole games. Other food vendors now open are Best Pizza; Vanessa’s Dumpling House, which sells Beijing-style dumplings and other Asian dishes; the New York dessert shop Lady M, known for its thousand pancake cakes; and the Van Leeuwen artisanal ice cream stand.
Dream Bar – described as “an intriguing cocktail bar” – is set to open this fall, and organic cookie company Bang Cookies is set to open by the end of the year.
The Food Hall is located on the second floor in Wing A of the mall – a space originally intended for the Munchies Food Hall, which as expected would feature live cooking demonstrations and celebrity appearances from the Munchies videos.
Instead, American Dream ended up using a smaller portion of the space for the Food Hall and plans to surround it with additional sit-down restaurants, such as the House of Que, a barbecue restaurant that opened earlier. early this year.
The current layout allows American Dream to add more food vendors to the venue if the concept takes off, or pivot to more full-service sit-down restaurants if it doesn’t.
The mall was also able to continue to recruit new tenants, including some peak experiential tenants, amid reports impending debt repayments and financing problems. He faces his next payment deadline on August 1.
American Dream recently landed the East Coast flagship site of Activate Games, an interactive indoor gaming experience that merges digital and physical gaming activities.
The game room powered by Hasbro
In any new mall project, potential tenants usually want to know who else is on board before committing to a lease. With American Dream, that waiting period was unusually long — first because of doubts that it would ever be able to attract enough stores or visitors to fill it, then because the pandemic put the world , and rental decisions, on hold.
While traditional retailers have remained slow to sign up, mall developers have focused on entertainment, dining and experiential tenants, and it’s becoming clear that other entertainment operators are eyeing the mall’s current tenants. and the crowds they attract, and saying “Me too”.
These tenants seem unfazed by frequent reports that the mall may not repay its loans or that it has exhausted its reserve fund for debt repayment.
“Our tenants are smart, sophisticated people who understand how financing works and believe in the project,” said Paul Ghermezian, family member who leads Triple Five Group, owner and developer of American Dream, as well as Mall of America. . and West Edmonton Mall, said during a grand opening celebration for the Food Hall.
Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of local business group Meadowlands Chamber, and a longtime proponent of the American Dream, said potential tenants see the crowds and success of attractions and current tenants and want be at the mall.
“You look around and you see hundreds of people enjoying themselves,” Kirkos said during the Food Hall opening celebration. The mall, he said, “has no trouble attracting people.”
While the owners of American Dream still have to resolve a number of financial issues, people should “give them a chance” and give them credit for continuing to move forward despite the financial hardship of the pandemic shutdowns, said Kirkos.
The mall, he said, is delivering on its promise of bringing people and dollars to the Meadowlands. “They fill hotel rooms and that makes me happy,” he said.