What is this?
Is it the baseball stadium that was dangled in front of the Yankees as far back as the 1970’s in an effort to get the team to pack up and move across the Hudson along with their Yankee Stadium cohabitants, the New York Football Giants? Nope.
Is it the result of the 1991 plan to build a Legoland Amusement Park, or maybe Sony’s proposed theme park to rival Disneyland? No, neither of those proposals ever got off the ground.
Is this the $50 million dollar amusement park that Donald Trump proposed to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in 1993? No, not that either.
Is this Xanadu, a project that was awarded to Mills Corporation in 2003 with the initial completion date of 2006? A plan that included an indoor ski slope, a Legoland, a movie theater and a concert hall. A plan that prompted Star-Ledger columnist Phil Munshine to comment, “What were the guys from the Meadowlands who thought up our vision of Xanadu smoking? Crack?” We’re getting closer. This is the ruins of the never-completed Xanadu.
Is this the Hard Rock Café casino, plans for which were unveiled in June of last year? Definitely not, because casinos are not allowed in New Jersey outside of Atlantic City. And while the question of allowing two casinos in North Jersey is on the November ballot, polls show it is likely on its way to a resounding defeat.
Is this the American Dream? Well, this building, which has been called “the ugliest dam building in New Jersey and possibly in America” by Gov. Chris Christie, is in fact the planned site for the American Dream, an entertainment and shopping complex under the direction of Triple Five, the developers of Minnesota’s Mall of America.
The American Dream is perhaps the most grandiose plan of all. And could well be the biggest boondoggle of all. Here are just a few of the things that the developers say will be included:
- The country’s largest indoor amusement park.
- The country’s largest indoor water park.
- An indoor ski slope.
- A 300-foot tall ferris wheel with views of Manhattan.
- A SeaLife aquarium
- An 800-room hotel
- A dine-in movie theater with the added feature of being able to smell scents from the movie.
- A Legoland Discovery Center
- A kosher food court
- 500 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, the Gap and Toys “R” Us.
You might imagine that would have a pretty hefty price tag, even with the state providing the land and waivers on tax collections. The first two developers spent $1.9 billion on the unfinished buildings in the image above. The second of those, Colony Capital, which took over after Mills went bankrupt, was cut off by its lenders and the property foreclosed. New Jersey taxpayers had kicked in with $80 million in road and infrastructure improvements to support the project. It was later turned over to Triple Five. The Christie administration then pumped in with another $1 billion in tax breaks and subsidies.
So you might think the American Dream is back on the road. And while there seems to have been some work going on in 2015 it all came to a halt last fall. Turns out Triple Five could use another billion or so and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is lining up a sale of that amount of bonds, backed largely by future sales tax receipts and payment in lieu of taxes. Triple Five, which now estimates the total cost of this now 13-year old project at $5 billion, is projecting a 2017 opening date. Whoops, that’s now been pushed back to 2018.
Here’s Uncle Floyd’s take: