Developer: Megamall to be Done in 2016
The developer of a megamall at the Meadowlands sports complex signed a union agreement Monday to jumpstart work on the long-delayed project, then addressed the question on the minds of anyone who has driven past the pastel-hued monstrosity: Will something be done about the exterior Gov. Chris Christie said made the complex “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America”?
The governor “was far from alone,” said Paul Ghermezian, senior vice president for mall developer Triple Five.
“It’s no secret the facade is ugly,” Ghermezian said to chuckles from the audience made up mostly of union workers. “We got your tweets, we got your emails, some people managed to get my cell number and texted me directly.”
Triple Five, which counts among its properties the Mall of America in Minnesota, recently gained approval from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for a revamped exterior that replaces the odd mishmash of colored panels with a cleaner design that emphasizes an outdoor look, Ghermezian said. In some areas the complex will feature 80-foot-high glass exteriors.
The $2 billion project featuring a waterpark, Hollywood-themed amusement park, retail and dining is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2016 and is projected to create 9,000 to 10,000 construction jobs, according to Rick Sabato, head of the Bergen County Building and Construction Trades Council.
“I’m glad we have been able to work through what has been a really long, arduous and at time maddening process to get to this day,” Christie said. “But it’s all about the result, and the result is going to be good for the working men and women of New Jersey.”
Jettisoning the quirky exterior will symbolize a new phase for a project that was approved more than 10 years ago but fell prey to the economic downturn and problems with various developers. Originally known as Xanadu, it was scheduled to open in 2007 but languished for years, partially built, until Triple Five took it over at the end of 2010.
From there it hit more roadblocks. The New York Jets and New York Giants, owners of adjacent MetLife Stadium, sued the developer in 2012, claiming Triple Five didn’t get their permission — as required under an earlier agreement — to expand the footprint for the mall from its original design. They also sought to have the mall closed on game days to avoid traffic backups.
Triple Five countersued, accusing the teams of engaging in an illegal campaign to stop the project from being completed.
The parties announced a settlement last month but didn’t provide specific details. Tony Armlin, Triple Five’s vice president for development and construction, said Monday the complex definitely will be on open on game days thanks to a new traffic-management and parking plan.
No representatives of the teams were introduced or mentioned at the news conference, and a spokeswoman for the teams didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
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