It took 17 years to get there, and many stops and starts, but the American Dream mega-mall project is scheduled to open its first group of retail stores tomorrow.
But the project in the New Jersey Meadowlands still has a long way to go before it achieves its stated dream of being “the world’s greatest shopping, entertainment, and dining destination.”
When the mall reopens, only a tiny fraction of the space built to house more than 300 retail stores will be occupied.
The delay-plagued project is still being mysterious about releasing the full list of tenants that will be operational when the mall reopens Thursday after a six-and-a-half month shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A mall spokesperson responded to inquiries by saying the complete list was still being finalized, but posts on the mall’s Instagram account as of Tuesday night listed 33 retail stores that will debut Thursday.
Most of the stores are mall mainstays like H&M, American Eagle
Even retail imports on the list ike Primark and Zara that were seen as exciting newcomers when they were first announced as Dream tenants, have since opened multiple locations at other nearby shopping centers.
(IT’SUGAR, a candy department store, opened at the mall in December and closed when American Dream shut down in March, but that store, located next to the amusement park, is more of an entertainment feature than retail.)
Only a few stores on the list give American Dream something shoppers can’t easy find at another New Jersey mall. They are:
- Aland, a Korean fashion and lifestyle brand with that opened its first U.S. store in Brooklyn two years ago.
- SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, the fashion brand of the Sex in the City star, which has eight stores, mostly in tourist locations, including two stores in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai.
- Mulberry and Grand, a fashion accessories store with four locations in Manhattan and one in San Francisco.
- Rache by James Paul Cheung, which appear to be a new retail venture by designer James Paul Cheung.
More than a dozen retailers that were supposed to be the foundation of the developer’s retail vision for American Dream either went bankrupt and died before the retail wing of the mall was ready to open, or decided to dramatically scale back their retail operations.
Those ghosts of American Dream’s retail past include Toys R Us and FAO Schwarz, Barney’s, Lord & Taylor, Century 21, and Microsoft
Toys R Us, which owned FAO Schwarz at the time, had, according to marketing materials produced by the developers in 2014, planned to make the FAO Schwarz location at American Dream the world flagship of the brand, and create an experiential destination that would be a tourist attraction on the scale of the original Manhattan store.
The FAO store would stand next to a Toys R Us flagship that would SAmerican Dream’s developers promised would rival that chain’s Times Square showplace.
That plan died when Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and liquidated in 2018.
The project’s developers, Triple Five, who also own the Mall of America in Minnesota and West Edmonton Mall in Canada, also said in 2014 that American Dream’s luxury retail wing would be flanked by flagship stores for Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.
At the time both of those retailers were part of the Hudson Bay Company. Lord & Taylor was sold off to e-commerce retailer Le Tote in 2019, and Le Tote filed for bankruptcy this year and announced in August that it was closing all of its stores.
Hudson Bay apparently dropped plans for a Lord & Taylor at American Dream as it was looking to shed the chain. The Saks Fifth Avenue store still on the tenant list, but it isn’t expect to open before next spring, according to Women’s Wear Daily. Saks Fifth Avenue did not provide information about its opening date when asked this week.
The 33 stores listed as opening on Thursday are a far cry from the 350 stores Triple Five previously had announced would be ready for shoppers in March, when American Dream originally planned to unveil its retail component.
The directory on the project’s website lists over 100 brands, most of them labeled “coming soon”, but it is doubtful it will have 350 stores any time soon.
Triple Five has said that it has shifted its plans for the complex from a 50-50 entertainment-retail mix, to something more like 70% entertainment, 30% retail.
The Nickelodeon Universe amusement park opened last year, in October, the Big Snow ski slope opened in December, and the DreamWorks water park is scheduled to open Thursday.
Two other entertainment attractions – the Sea Life Acquarium and the Legoland Discovery Center – announced Tuesday that they will not open until spring of 2021, despite construction being nearly complete at the beginning of this year.
Merlin Entertainments, which operates the Sea Life and Legoland Discovery Center businesses, said it made the decision to postpone the openings until next year because of the need to implement additional safety measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 33 stores American Dream says will be open Oct. 1 are:
- Abercrombie Kids
- American Eagle
- Banana Republic
- Bath & Body Works
- Box Lunch
- Build a Bear Workshop
- Dream Riders
- Eddie Bauer
- Hot Topic
- Mulberry and Grand
- Old Navy
- Parfum Europa
- Rache by James Paul Cheung
- SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker
- Scotch & Soda
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, as reported by NJ.com, says it has issued certificates of occupancy for a number of other retailers not listed as opening by American Dream, including DSW, Uniqlo, Urban Planet and Columbia Sportswear
It isn’t normal for a mall to be so mysterious about which stores will be open on its opening – or reopening day. But as has been said many times before, this isn’t a normal mall.