Stimulating NJ's "Stately Pleasure-Dome"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

domeblueBack in 2002, Xanadu, the 2.3 million square foot mega entertainment and retail complex, was intended as a way for New Jersey’s Sport and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) to rebrand its aging Meadowlands Complex. The NJSEA was facing the loss of three of its sports franchises, the Devils, the Nets and the Jets. For years, the commercial potential of the sports complex, just 25 minutes from New York City, had never really materialized. The site was only accessible by auto and traffic jams plagued its busiest days.

New Jersey is always strapped for transportation dollars. So the odds were stacked against the NJSEA to get the hundreds of millions needed for a mass transit link that would only serve Sunday football fans. But if they could add a “Xanadu', that would also include office and hotel development, the Sports Authority could make its case.

Xanadu, As Built, March 17, 2009

Listen to Hennelly's tale of Xanadu:

The Port Authority did shell out $182 million for the 2.3-mile rail spur that ties the entire Meadowlands complex into New Jersey Transit’s rail network. The NJSEA kicked in over $6 million to buy land it needed to complete the rail right of way, also a Superfund site in the midst of remediation.

A rail spur that was supposed to cost $150 million would cost almost 30 percent more and be years behind schedule. It is scheduled now to open in June. As far as holding on to the three sports franchises for the NJSEA? It was one for three. The Devils skated to Newark, the Nets look to be bouncing to Brooklyn and the Jets landed in the neighborhood. They teamed up with the Giants to build a brand new stadium. Was the private public partnership a “win win? Time will tell. Xanadu says it is 70 percent leased, but concedes it does not yet have an anchor retail tenant.

The History: The Vision, Early Supporters, Key Documents

The Vision

Images courtesy of Meadowlands Xanadu
'A world of opportunity'

December 2003, Governor Jim McGreevy voices his support of Xanadu at a press conference, "This will be the premiere family entertainment center in the Northeast" and addresses the transportation challenges.

Xanadu Documents

* New Jersey Meadowlands Commission Master Plan:

A primary planning document for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), a regional authority which establishes principles and standards (PDF) to guide future development while protecting resources of the Meadowlands district.

* Xanadu Hearing Officers Report, August 19, 2004 (PDF)

* Colony Capital in financial straits:

Documentation from the NJ Casino Control Commission Colony Capital (developer of Xanadu) fighting to keep one of its Atlantic City’s casinos, Resorts International, from foreclosure (PDF) and the resorts' response (PDF) .

Rail link into New Jersey transit
Twenty-five minutes from NYC
One of Xanadu’s five zones
Palatial common space for shoppers
“Arresting” visuals
Vaulted ceilings 30 and 40 feet from ground level
About 90 percent of Xanadu is completed
Retail space conceived as theatrical
Some homage to the natural world
Washroom entrances designed in flusher time
Fashion zone to include model runway
Dry wall odds and ends
Food and Home zone
Not your usual mall flooring
Fashion Zone and balconies
90-foot deep footing for U.S.\'s largest ferris wheel
Add snow and ski. Xanadu Snowpark
Xanadu: lifeline for building trade union
Tenants do their own interiors
Vivid floor coverings
A ferris wheel gondola car
Only 50% conventional retail
Sports and multi-generational entertainment
I-Max and 18 other movie screens
New concert venue
Earth tones meet glitz
Overlooking the Hackensack River
All Aboard. Xanadu Station
Not many raves for the exterior profile


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Comments [2]

Christian Van Pelt

Great work.- Keep it coming, Bob and I am sure that there will be more to report on Xanadu !!
When our beloved politicians feel the urge to spend tax dollars, I guess they are unaware of the marked difference that exists between identifying exisitng needs and fantasizing what needs might be created out there... the very name Xanadu revives in my mind images of self gratification in magnificent, albeit ephemeral oppulence.... the writing is on the wall: it is a growing monument to failure because the focus was not on needs, but on greed.
Why not take our losses and move on, instead of building railroad spurs to Lalaland? I have a (free) proposal: offer all these potential skiers and thrill seekers free limo service from new york. It's likely to be cheaper than the proposed next chapter in this endless tragedy.

Mar. 19 2009 11:07 AM
Dick Muldoon

This was a must-listen story this morning and you've done a very nice job enhancing it on the web site. I worry that only a handful of people still do real investigative reporting -- witness the "surprising" collapse of AIG et al -- and I did *not* expect WNYC to have (and I hope keep) one of them on staff. Good for Bob Hennelly and good for WNYC.

Mar. 18 2009 09:39 AM

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