The rumors that fantasy toy emporium FAO Schwarz is soon to leave its Fifth Avenue home gained some traction yesterday as reports surfaces that it was planning to move to an immense mega-mall project in New Jersey whose future is almost but not quite assured.
The American Dream Meadowlands project has released a flurry of promotional materials lately as it headlines the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual retail convention at the Javits Center this week according to The Record's NorthJersey.com. The mall, which is currently very much under construction, will be an unprecedented shopping/entertainment complex for New Jersey and the entire East Coast, really. It can only be fairly compared to the humongous Mall of America in Minnesota which claims to be the midwest's number one tourist destination. It also boasts the same developer, Edmonton, Alberta based Triple Five Worldwide, as the Meadowlands project, so they have some experience with this kind of massive project. Along with what is claimed to be FAO Schwarz's only store, the mall claims that 140,000 square foot Saks Fifth Avenue and 110 square foot Lord & Taylor stores (pictured flanking a proposed hotel in the rendering above) are confirmed for the East Rutherford, NJ project's luxury wing to be called "The Collections at American Dream". Nearly every other mass retail chain and mall store is also said to be signed or close to signing to the project including letters of intent to lease from 155 retailers and 93 completed leases from retailers who have yet to be specifically identified. Meant to become a tourist attraction on the scale of its midwestern sibling with a specific intent to attract tourists from China and the far east, the mall is also planned to have an aquarium, miniature golf course, Cirque du Soleil theater, 26-car observation wheel, the first indoor ski and snowboard park in the Western Hemisphere including an 800 foot indoor ski slope and an NHL-sized skating rink aside from the expected movie theaters and multiple wings of restaurants ranging from fast food to more upscale offerings like Bice, STK and a branch of the Carnegie Deli. A whole wing dedicated to outlet shopping is also planned as well as pretty much anything else you have ever heard of being in a shopping mall.
Triple Five has yet to release official press materials confirming its plans, and is currently promoting itself only to retailers and other potential tenants, but they seem to be further along than the other grand retail plans that have been proposed and abandoned for the Meadowlands including the famously abandoned Xanadu complex. As for the stores named as committed, none of them are publicly confirming plans either, though Saks could use the American Dream store to replace the Hackensack NJ location it has announced to be closing.
As for FAO Schwarz, rumors of its future at the GM Building have been swirling since it recently signed a lease extension only through 2017, and some of the store's current space has reportedly been marketed for subleasing. Parent company Toys R Us claims it has not signed a lease and is only exploring the American Dream mall as a way to expand the brand in New Jersey that would have nothing to do with the future of its New York flagship. Though shifting its flagship to New Jersey could chip away at the brand's prestige, relocating to a tourist-magnet mall could be a smart move and it would most likely relieve the pressure of the crushing Fifth Avenue rents that a renewal in its current location would inevitably bring.
The mall is slated to open for Holiday 2016, which is exactly two year away, so if any of these stores are planning to move in, they would need to be signed and confirmed either already or in the imminent future. Now that Triple Five is in full promotional mode for the project, we can expect to be hearing a lot more about it soon.
We might all be hopping over to New Jersey to entertain ourselves at the Mall sooner than we think.