The Bergen County Improvement Authority is asking New Jersey to approve a plan to sell as much as $800 million in tax-exempt bonds to cover construction of the unfinished American Dream megamall.
The authority’s board yesterday approved an application to sell as much as $524 million in debt backed by tax payments to East Rutherford, and another $276 million backed by state sales and income taxes, the Record newspaper reported.
Plans for the mall about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Manhattan near the Meadowlands Sports Complex include the nation’s first indoor ski slope and a theme park. Governor Chris Christie, who approved state incentives for the project, had expected it to open before February’s Super Bowl, which organizers say may pump $550 million into the area’s economy.
Now Christie, a Republican, says his hands are tied as the developer, Triple Five Group, and the National Football League’s New York Jets and Giants argue in court over potential traffic on game days.
“There’s no risk to the taxpayers,” said Allan Marcus, a spokesman for American Dream. “The risk flows through to the purchasers of those bonds and there would be no recourse back to the taxpayers.”
The Bergen County agency would sell the bonds on behalf of the developers and the money for repayment would come from revenue at the site, Marcus said. The developers would be using the authority’s tax-exempt status to borrow at lower costs, he said.
Triple Five, owned by Edmonton’s Ghermezian family, took over the development in December 2010. The $3.7 billion project began a decade ago when Governor James McGreevey picked the now-defunct Mills Corp. to build it. The project was later transferred to Santa Monica, California-based Colony Capital LLC in 2006.
Triple Five planned to invest $1.76 billion in the project after $1.9 billion had already been spent. The company, which also owns the Mall of America in Minnesota and West Edmonton Mall in Canada, plans a 2.8 million-square-foot complex slated to have an ice-skating rink, indoor skydiving simulator and 250 shops, plus 70 restaurants.
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