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Triple Five: Xanadu completion ‘not economically viable' without wetlands development

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Artist rendering of the amusement park at American Dream Meadowlands. (Courtesy Triple Five)
Artist rendering of the amusement park at American Dream Meadowlands. (Courtesy Triple Five)

The developer of the long-stalled retail and entertainment complex previously known as Xanadu continued to insist today that its plans for completing the project and rebranding it American Dream Meadowlands are "not economically viable" without its plan to build upon a 5.5-acre tract of wetlands.

Triple Five, of Edmonton, Canada, discussed in public hearings Tuesday and today the environmental impact of its plans on the wetlands site. The developer wants to put water and amusement parks on the wetlands tract, adjacent to the main structure. A final public hearing on the environmental impact will take place tonight at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Tony Armlin, vice president for development and construction for Triple Five, said during a presentation that the water and amusement parks are "critical and central functional parts of Triple Five's master plan." He said such parks have been key to the success of the company's other destination malls — the Mall of America, in Minnesota, and the West Edmonton Mall.

"This project is not economically viable without these components," he said. The company had considered other sites for the parks, both on and off the property, but rejected them, he said: "None of the other sites were practicable in terms of their ability to meet our criteria for location, access and connectivity."

Wednesday's hearing once again drew dozens of union workers and local merchants who testified in support of the project, which will require about $1.8 billion to complete and is projected to open in late 2013. The company has projected the development, which will feature 2.9 million square feet of retail and attraction space, will generate more than 9,000 construction jobs and 11,000 permanent jobs.

Through the first three hearings, 45 people testified about the project, most of them offering support despite not discussing the environmental impact.

"As far as the public interest goes, it's a no-brainer," said Mike Schneider, of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 32, of Newark. "We have the technology to build this as environmentally friendly as anywhere else in the world."

In fact, this morning, only transportation planning advocates expressed skepticism on the plan, as a result of their review of a supplemental environmental impact statement prepared by Triple Five.

Janna Chernetz, the New Jersey advocate with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said the statement left "too many unanswered questions" about how Triple Five plans to promote public transportation and reduce traffic congestion on the highways around American Dream.

"Details about how Triple Five plans to partner with (NJ Transit) are completely missing," Cherneitz said, also citing budgetary concerns for the transit agency and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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