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Triple Five exec: ‘We couldn't build' American Dream without expanded grant program

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Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Tuesday afternoon that gives the developers of American Dream Meadowlands the tax incentives needed to continue the megamall and entertainment complex in East Rutherford.

"We couldn't build the project without it," said Maureen Bausch, executive vice president of Triple Five, the project redeveloper, of the expansion to the Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant program. "It is a critical piece."

The bill amends ERG to allow Triple Five to qualify for a grant through the Economic Development Authority for the project, formerly known as Xanadu. The developer still needs to apply and be approved for the grant before public and private financing will be approved.

ERG offers developers a grant worth up to 75 percent of the property's annual incremental state and/or local tax if the developer can prove a project financing gap. The grant can be extended for up to 20 years, but cannot exceed more than 20 percent of the project's total cost.

Critics scoffing at the incentive expansion during the state's fiscal crisis are missing the point, Bausch said.

"The money does not become available unless we build the project," Bausch said. "We call those 'but for' taxes, because if it wasn't but for the project, those taxes would not be available for us or anyone else to use."

Bausch also said the project has already been lucrative for the state, with $1.9 billion of private funding already invested, generating payroll and sales taxes.

"There are 9,000 construction jobs projected to finish it," Bausch said. "That really helps unemployment in the construction industry, to put 9,000 people work in the next year-and-a-half. New Jersey should really want this thing to open. I think it's been there long enough."

The bill also amends the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program to include residential projects in the nine cities eligible for this funding.

At the bill signing, Christie credited bipartisan cooperation for giving more incentives for redevelopment projects, saying projects "from Newark to Camden to New Brunswick … and the American Dream in the Meadowlands all will benefit from the legislation that we just signed."

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