American Dream’s luxury wing opens with five stores and many boarded up storefronts
“You are about to step into the most incredible luxury retail environment there is,” said Don Ghermezian, general manager of American Dream mega-mall in New Jersey, in a video from the grand opening ceremony for The Avenue, the new luxury wing shopping center.
Not exactly. Triple Five promises that The Avenue will eventually become that. The reality at the moment is that the wing only has five stores and one restaurant.
While American Dream has created a visually stunning “Avenue” that they could potentially fill with exciting stores, for now shoppers have only five choices.
Aside from the wing’s anchor, the 110,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue, the majority of the avenue is made up of construction barricades disguised with beautiful murals to hide the empty spaces behind them.
Saks, Hermès, Johnny Was, Dolce
The Avenue opened on September 17 with four stores in addition to Saks: Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Johnny Was and Mulberry, and a gourmet restaurant, Carpaccio.
The owners of American Dream decided not to wait for their luxury wing to reach critical mass of stores before proceeding with the grand opening. After all, buyers and Saks have already been waiting a long time for the wing to open.
After the first part of American Dream, the Nickelodeon Amusement Park, which opened in October 2019, the owners of the mall announced that the luxury wing and other retail stores would open in March 2020. The pandemic has made push this back to March, 2021, and again until September 2021.
“Street of dreams”
As they have done with other parts of the mall, the owners, Triple Five Group, are using a strategy that seems to be working for them, albeit slowly. If you open it, tenants will come, seems to be their philosophy.
“Avenue is truly a street of dreams that will be even more dreamlike as we continue to add new names,” Triple Five Creative Director Ken Downing told WWD during a preliminary tour of the wing.
The rest, and the best, is yet to come has been the Triple Five mantra since American Dream’s first grand opening in fall 2019.
When they opened the Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Big Snow Ice Rink and Indoor Ski Slope in late 2019, Triple Five was under pressure to respond to skeptics who doubted the mall’s opening.
Years behind at American Dream
The project was already years behind schedule. Triple Five, when it took over the site in 2011, after the crash and fire of two previous developers, said the first phase, with 300 stores and 50 restaurants, would open at the end of 2013. This estimate has been replaced by opening dates planned for 2016, 2017, and finally 2019.
Since then, Triple Five, which owns two other huge entertainment and retail complexes, the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, has struggled to carry massive loans for the project as the pandemic slowed the revenues of American Dream and its other malls, and had to give lenders significant stakes in its other mega-malls.
As recently as July, American Dream officials said they expected more than 20 stores to be ready for shoppers when the wing opened on September 17. But when construction delays prevented most of these stores from being ready in time for opening, the mall decided to stick to the September 17 date anyway.
“We could definitely find reasons not to open,” Downing told Allison Pries of NJ.com. “But our guests deserve to have this.”
“At some point you have to stop waiting,” Downing told WWD. Downing said he and American Dream CEO Don Ghermezian, who is a family member behind Triple Five, believed it was important to open The Avenue this fall, even though much of the space would remain covered with barricades.
The barricades in front of empty storefronts and under construction, however, are stunning, covered with murals of fashion-related images in pinks and pastels. But shoppers have to walk through long stretches of barricades to find the few open stores.
“Where are the stores? An opening day visitor asked, looking at a mall directory in the wing, which showed the avenue with no stores identified.
American Dream hired decorator Jonathan Adler to create an environment at The Avenue similar to an upscale boutique hotel. He created a visually stunning space with plenty of seating areas and large sculptures decorated with faces that serve as containers for topiary plantings.
The wing is a photographer’s and Instagram’s paradise. On opening day, parents with strollers and toddlers could be seen posing their children with some of the high fashion models on display as part of an art and fashion exhibition linked to the opening.
Saks and its parent company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, took a big bet on American Dream and Triple Five early in the project, when Triple Five struggled to convince top retailers to try their luck in the mall. still under construction. . Hudson Bay, which like Triple Five is based in Canada, pledged in 2014 to open Saks and Lord & Taylor flagship stores at American Dream, which would house a luxury collection of hundreds of stores. Lord & Taylor has since gone bankrupt and closed its stores, along with a number of other retailers initially advertised as tenants of Dream.
A new start for Saks in New Jersey
Saks closed its two New Jersey stores – at The Shops at Riverside in Hackensack, NJ in 2014, and The Mall in Short Hills in 2016 – in anticipation of the upcoming American Dream location opening.
The new store gives Saks a fresh and modern look and reflects Saks’ adherence to online shopping. Visitors to American Dream can virtually shop for the latest collections at the New York City Saks flagship store while they are in the New Jersey store. The store also offers online appointments for same-day service and delivery of purchases.
Saks and the 8,000-square-foot Hermes store and the new retail location of bohemian-chic luxury brand Johnny Was are impressive tenants. The Hermès store, which limited the number of customers inside on opening day, had a line of half a dozen customers at noon. Other stores, including Tiffany, Saint Laurent, Jonathan Adler, Anne Fontaine and Zadig & Voltaire, as well as a champagne bar, are expected to open in the coming months.
Currently, the two-level wing barricades cover enough retail space for at least 50 department stores and possibly twice as much if retailers opt for smaller spaces. American Dream needs those barricades to fall and the spaces behind them filled with open stores, before the avenue can be called an “incredible luxury retail environment.”
But for now, those barricades and the fabulous murals in them are the most amazing thing about The Avenue.