Fifteen years after construction first began, the Xanadu mall is open. Except the new name for the "extremely unique" $5 billion project in East Rutherford, NJ, is American Dream, and publicists prefer to call it not a mall, but a "style and entertainment destination." The grand opening Friday of the site built in the Meadowlands (PennLive has pics) is only partial, reports the New York Times. That's because, per owner Triple Five Group, the mall will unfold in "chapters," starting with "Chapter One," an ice rink and Nickelodeon theme park. What's coming down the pike: a water park and indoor ski slope by year's end, followed by more than 350 "shopping experiences" in March. The North Jersey Record notes the mall's concept emerged in 1991, with construction starting in 2004. But financial issues plagued the first two owners, and progress crawled until 2011, when Triple Five took over.
Some wonder if this mall will be a dream or a nightmare for its owners, considering it's in a location you can't easily get to on public transit, the shops of New York City are only a few miles away, and eventual retailers in the mall won't be able to sell on Sundays due to Bergen County laws. Plus the surrounding area is swampland prone to flooding, and environmentalists are concerned about auto emissions from visitors and the energy use of such a huge complex. Triple Five chief Don Ghermezian doesn't seem fazed, though, telling the Times the mall will be a competitor with attractions like Disney World and will put that part of Jersey "on the map" for tourists. Per CBS New York, it will cost $24 to park for eight hours, but there will be buses and ferry shuttles to help bring people from NYC. "You don't need to ... fly to Orlando anymore," Ghermezian says. "You can just come across the river." (Read more shopping mall stories.)