The American Dream mega mall in New Jersey, just outside of New York City, has been positioned as a glimpse at the future of shopping centers. But the mall’s owners, whacked hard by pandemic restrictions, is struggling just to stay open.
The mall’s Canadian owners have had to arrange a special deal with the banks that have financed the project to get a 49% stake in the firm’s two other giant malls, the Mall of America in Minnesota (the biggest shopping mall in the U.S.) and the West Edmonton Mall (the biggest mall in Canada). This happened after Triple Five Group, which has its head office in the West Ed Mall, defaulted on a loan for the troubled New Jersey project.
The mall has been missing mortgage payments.
I mention all this for two reasons:
1 – Malls of the future are being positioned as destination sites that offer shopping, of course, but also attractions for kids and adults, and dining that’s a major step up from the food courts that are the main food option in most malls. With online shopping even more of a thing now because of COVID, malls have to present compelling reasons why consumers would get in their cars and head out for a day;
2 – The American Dream mall, as it has been slowly opening up in recent months, has been adding more and more digital both inside and outside, including a lot of LED displays.
This Forbes piece goes into the current situation, and the back-story, which traces all the way back to 2003, when a mega-mall was first pitched for the Meadowlands area near the New Jersey turnpike.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to draw conclusions on whether a mall can also work as a destination, given the owners unfortunately got to a ready-to-open state just in time for a global pandemic. There are lots of examples globally, notably in Asia and the Middle East but even in South Africa, where malls have themed events, fine dining options, attached hotels and a lot of digital.