Today, visitors to the American Dream complex in East Rutherford , N.J., can ride a rollercoaster, learn how to ski on an indoor slope and splash around a water park all in one day. Pretty soon, though, they’ll also be able to shop.
So far, the $5 billion megamall’s retail offerings are fairly limited — Whoopi Goldberg launched a pop-up store there in November where fans can shop her clothing line surrounded by movie memorabilia and plants from Goldberg’s garden. Last month, IT’SUGAR opened a three-story, Willy Wonka-esque “candy department store” catering, presumably, to many of the same patrons as the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe theme park.
In March, though, American Dream will have its grand opening, unveiling 3.3 million square feet of retail, which a spokesperson confirmed is now nearly 90% leased. This stat is particularly impressive considering the challenges most U.S. malls are facing today — not to mention American Dream’s own less-than-auspicious history. Developers broke ground on the mall 17 years ago, after which work was stalled numerous times due to bankruptcies and lawsuits. On Tuesday, Reis Moody’s Analytics published a report showing that mall vacancies in the U.S. hit a 20-year high of 9.7% at the end of 2019, despite the strong economy.
American Dream developers Triple Five Group, which also own the Mall of America and the West Edmonton Mall are bucking this trend by positioning the property’s retail offerings within a unique array of entertainment and dining experiences. As Ken Downing, Triple Five’s chief creative officer, told FN, “[American Dream is] not just about shopping. It’s not just about the stores. Beyond being a shopping center, we actually really see ourselves as being a community of inclusivity, diversity and very much like a neighborhood because of its size.”
What remains to be seen is whether, in the age of Amazon, this will be enough to get shoppers to spend and not just browse.
According to Bloomberg, about 450 businesses are set to open so far, and all of the stores larger than 20,000 square feet have been leased, as well as about 70% of the smaller spaces. While American Dream said it will share updates on tenants closer to March, there is plenty to glean from press releases, interviews and job listings for store managers and sales associates.
Foot Locker, DSW, Lululemon, Vans and Skechers are among the retailers on track to open their doors in the complex this spring, along with Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, Primark, Levi’s, Aritzia, Banana Republic, Pacsun, Columbia Sportswear, Century 21 and Gap.
Luxury names will include New Jersey’s first Saks Fifth Avenue location, as well as Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Mulberry and Moncler. It’s unclear whether Barneys New York will occupy the full space it had planned to lease before its bankruptcy and subsequent sale to Authentic Brands Group. FN has reached out to ABG for comment. A spokesperson for American Dream declined to comment on Barneys.