Xanadu Project in New Jersey Set for Completion by Triple Five

Triple Five Worldwide Development Co. LLC, owner of the Mall of America in Minnesota, reached a deal with lenders and New Jersey’s governor to complete and expand the stalled Meadowlands Xanadu entertainment complex.

The developer will increase the project’s size to about 3 million square feet (279,000 square meters) from 2.4 million, change its much-maligned exterior, and add indoor water and theme parks to the mix of attractions, said Maureen Bausch, a spokeswoman for Triple Five. The complex, which will be renamed “American Dream | Meadowlands,” is set to open in phases starting in the fall of 2013, according to the spokeswoman.

“The building will provide opportunity in a lot of ways,” Bausch said. “It will bring jobs, opportunities for people to start businesses, and opportunities to visit New Jersey with their families.”

Bausch declined to provide details about Triple Five’s investment. The New York Times reported today that the company would pump more than $1 billion into the project and that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie agreed to provide low-interest financing and allow the developer to use most of the sales tax it collects over a period of time to repay the loan. The state is offering a financing package of $180 million to $200 million, according to the newspaper.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

2014 Super Bowl

Earlier owners invested about $2 billion in the project, which sits about 10 miles west of Manhattan in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The goal is to have the complex open in advance of the 2014 NFL Super Bowl, which will be played at the New Meadowlands Stadium, home to the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets.

Plans for the project include 1.7 million square feet of shops and restaurants, a Ferris wheel, movie and performing arts theaters, an indoor ski slope and virtual skydiving.

Jeff Tittel, New Jersey director of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, criticized the agreements, saying the project has already received hundreds of millions of dollars in state subsidies.

“This bailout is corporate welfare,” Tittel said in a statement. “At a time when property taxes are rising, police are being laid off, and government services are being cut out, New Jersey taxpayers will be subsidizing a shopping mall.”

‘Ugly’ Exterior

Triple Five plans to change the complex’s checkerboard exterior, called “ugly” by 79 percent of New Jersey voters familiar with the project, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released April 22. A backlit mesh overlay may allow the color of the buildings to change for special occasions, Bausch said.

The company expects the project to create 8,900 construction jobs and draw 55 million visitors a year, according to Bausch.

Triple Five signed a letter of intent with a lender group to take over the development of Xanadu, according to a joint statement in December. Creditors took control of the project in August from a group led by Colony Capital LLC after delays in construction.

The complex has been plagued by delays since building began more than five years ago. Colony, led by billionaire Thomas J. Barrack, took over in 2006 from Mills Corp., the original developer, after Mills ran out of money.

Work stalled after the September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which had financed the project, left lenders unable to meet obligations, Santa Monica, California-based Colony said in an August statement.

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