Xanadu Gets Uglier

Xanadu, the half-finished mall complex in the Meadowlands. Two developers have failed to complete the project; NJ is hoping the third time's the charm.

Who knew it was possible to make Xanadu uglier? Gov. Chris Christie announced last month that the state will provide $200 million in low-interest financing and forfeit a similar amount in future sales tax revenue to developer Triple Five (of Mall of America fame) to resurrect Xanadu, the Bermuda Triangle of development projects. If the project succeeds, expect even greater strains on the area’s stressed-out transportation infrastructure.

Renamed “American Dream @ Meadowlands,” this new and improved mega-mall is slated to open by 2013. However, the existing 2.4-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center is not big enough. Triple Five plans on expanding, adding a large indoor water park and a skating rink and keeping the 600-foot indoor ski slope. This would expand the complex to 3 million square feet — with another 4.5 million square feet of hotels and a convention center to be added later. The 7.5 million square-foot complex would be “the largest retail, entertainment, amusement, recreation and tourism project, under one roof, in the world,” according to Triple Five.

But mums the word about how people are going to get in and out of this pleasure garden. Triple Five is estimating more than 55 million visitors a year — or 150,000 a day. A comprehensive transportation plan has been long called for by Tri-State and other environmental groups and, given this new blueprint, the need for enhanced public transportation, bus and train, in and out of the Meadowlands via New York and New Jersey is ever more important. The Turnpike and other access roads leading into the facility will be even more congested than they already are once mall traffic is added to that caused by the sports events and other attractions that already go on at the Izod Center and New Meadowlands Stadium. Currently there is no access to the Meadowlands via public transportation absent a major event like a Giants or Jets game.

Triple Five should use some of its financial breaks to contribute to NJ Transit and maintenance of local roads, so NJ taxpayers are not saddled with more costs they can’t afford.  It would be a win-win situation: a win for New Jersey’s roads and public transportation and a win for the developer to ensure continued, easy access to the American Dream.

New Jersey seems to be betting on the maxim that “If you build it, they will come.”  Well, not if they can’t get there.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Millertime83.

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