Non essential retail has reopened from the coronavirus shutdown. Malls have reopened, too.
But American Dream, the mega-mall in the Meadowlands, still hasn’t. And it doesn’t even have an opening date yet.
“We are very different from other malls,” an American Dream spokesperson said.
American Dream has always eschewed the mega-mall moniker. And now, more than ever, the difference between it and traditional New Jersey shopping malls is evident. The heavily-weighted toward entertainment American Dream doesn’t have the tenancy right now to support reopening when its rides and slides can’t welcome guests.
Still, Don Ghermezian, chief executive officer of Triple Five, the developer behind American Dream, said the development is ready to open whenever its safe to do so.
“Reopening American Dream safely and responsibly is our top priority,” he said. “We have been working very closely with the Murphy administration, state and local agencies and our primary health care partner, Hackensack Meridian Health, to develop extensive health and safety plans for American Dream and each of our attractions.”
“Triple Five has invested billions of dollars, created tens-of-thousands of jobs, done what no one else could do,” Ghermezian said of the long-stalled project for which it is the third developer.
The closure of American Dream has furloughed more than 1,400 workers and halted the hiring of thousands more, Ghermezian said, because it postponed the opening of hundreds of tenants.
But construction is continuing during the shutdown. And tenants are merchandising, stocking, staffing and preparing for American Dream’s reopening, he said.
“American Dream is unwaveringly committed to this region, and we are incredibly excited about the upcoming re-opening and our future success,” Ghermezian said.
Prior to the coronavirus shutdown about 8% of the 3 million square foot complex was open. That includes the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park; The Rink, an NHL regulation-sized ice skating rink; an indoor mini-golf course and IT’SUGAR, a three-story candy department store.
American Dream had planned to unveil its DreamWorks Water Park and 60 to 100 retail and quick-serve dining tenants on March 19. But coronavirus closed it on March 16.
None of those indoor entertainment venues — which make up the crux of the current American Dream — would be allowed to open right now under Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus restrictions.
“Members of my administration are working closely with American Dream’s senior leadership team, as well as state and local health officials, to enable their entertainment options to safely open as soon as possible,” Murphy said in a statement. “We continue to monitor overall health trends and hope to make an announcement about their entertainment openings at a future date.”
Outdoor amusement and water parks were allowed to reopen as of July 2. But Murphy said at a June 24 press briefing, that “inside is a whole different reality than outside.”
“We just don’t think it’s the responsible thing to do,” the governor said last month. “If you look at the flare ups … that we’re seeing in other states, we just cannot mimic what we’re seeing with clear evidence.”
When it does reopen, Ghermezian said American Dream will practice many of the same precautions that other businesses are using.
- There will be controlled access and capacity will be reduced throughout the property.
- Ground and seat markings and plexiglass barriers will be used to promote physical distancing.
- Face coverings will be required for employees and guests.
- Nearly 200 hand sanitizers have been installed throughout American Dream and within its attractions.
- They will also proactively communicate with guests about what to expect when they visit.
- Enhanced cleaning that will emphasize high-touch areas using EPA and CDC-approved products.
- Safety ambassadors will greet guests and provide health and safety information.
- Temperature checks will be conducted at the entrance to Nickelodeon Universe and DreamWorks Water Park.
A spokesperson for Big SNOW, the indoor ski slope that opened at American Dream last December, said it’s been planning for the reopening since the early days of the pandemic.
“Pretty early on into pandemic we formed our internal COVID-19 Task Force and over this time we have evaluated and re-imagined every piece of our team member and guest journey to make sure that we are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe when we reopen,” Hugh Reynolds, vice president of marketing and sales for Big SNOW, said.
“We’ll be ready to welcome people back safely to the snow just as soon as the governor tells us we can do so.”
Allison Pries may be reached at email@example.com.