New Jersey's Xanadu: Mall to become American Dream

NEW YORK Tue May 3, 2011 5:47pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Xanadu complex at the New Jersey Meadowlands never became the "pleasure dome" the name was meant to convey, but New Jersey is betting it could be the American dream.

The long-delayed, much-maligned entertainment and retail development, situated just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was given new life on Tuesday, as the state finalized a deal with the developers.

Renamed American Dream at the Meadowlands, the complex is now scheduled to open by 2013.

"With a more attractive design plan, a new name and timeline for completion, this project is getting a much-needed make-over, while enhancing New Jersey's reputation as a vibrant tourism destination," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said in a statement.

Last year, Christie announced a preliminary deal with Triple Five, whose Mall of America in Minnesota is the most visited in the country.

Work on Xanadu, originally slated to open in 2007, stalled amid financial difficulties. Christie called it "by far the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America."

The name Xanadu comes from a poem about a pleasure palace by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge -- and was later enshrined in American culture in the film "Citizen Kane" as the name of the title character's lavish home.

The new design calls for an amusement park, indoor water park, ice rink, cinema, aquarium, comedy club, high-end retail shops, and a performing arts theater. An indoor ski facility will be the first in North America, Christie said a statement.

Triple Five "understands the public's displeasure with the current exterior and is committed to improving the look so that it better fits in with the surrounding area, yet has a dynamic, exciting feel," the governor's office said.

The American Dream project will generate more than 8,900 construction jobs over the next two years and up to 35,000 permanent jobs once it is fully operational, Christie said.

One issue that remains is the fate of the blue laws that are still on the books in Bergen County, where part of the Meadowlands complex is located. The laws prohibit the sale of most nonessential items on Sundays.

"If Bergen County's blue laws are to be changed, the voters must make that decision," Bergen Assemblywoman Connie Wagner said in a statement following Christie's announcement.

It is, however, also possible that Christie would unilaterally repeal the blue laws.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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