NY Giants and Jets Settle Mall Lawsuits
HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) - The NFL's Giants and Jets finally reached a settlement agreement with mall developer Triple Five over the long-stalled "American Dream" project, with all parties agreeing to drop their lawsuits.
The settlement, labeled "confidential" in Bergen County Superior Court, has both sides dismissing their complaints without prejudice and paves the way for construction to restart.
The mall has a long and troubled history. The project, called "Xanadu" when first proposed and approved in 2003 by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, is a partially built mall across the parking lot from MetLife Stadium, home to the NFL's Giants and Jets franchises and host of last month's Super Bowl.
The complex, upon which ground was broken back in 2005, was planned to be a 4.8 million square-foot entertainment destination center, including retail space, an office complex and hotels.
But the project ran into financial troubles in 2009; work stopped, financing dried up, and the original developer walked away.
In 2011 Triple Five, which owns the Mall of America in Minneapolis, bought the partially completed property and revealed expansion plans that included a glass-domed amusement park with year-round roller coasters, a water park and an aquarium, along with several aspects of the Xanadu project, including an indoor ski jump, which, all told, would encompass more than 7.5 million square feet and make it the largest mall in the world - a title now held by the Mall of America.
It was these expansion plans, which the NJSEA approved, that brought the two football teams to sue Triple Five in 2012.
The Jets and Giants claimed that the rebranded "American Dream" complex would create a "transportation nightmare" and would "clog the complex's already congested transportation networks."
They also claimed that the expansion of the complex violated an agreement the teams and the NJSEA had when they built MetLife Stadium in 2009, which stated that "prior written consent of the Stadium Entities" was needed for any expansion plans for the former 'Xanadu' project.
Triple Five fired back with its own lawsuit last year, claiming that the Giants and Jets were waging an "ongoing campaign to delay, thwart, and ultimately prevent the project from ever opening, in order that the teams and their affiliates can maintain their lucrative monopoly over the Sports Complex."
Triple Five claimed that the teams, in their lawsuit, used "preposterous factual assumptions and concocted traffic models manipulated by the teams to conjure images of nightmare traffic and parking at MetLife Stadium on game days which they know to be false, and which have been rejected by every agency which has considered them."
Traffic can be a big issue in New Jersey.
The two sides softened their rhetoric Wednesday while announcing the deal, which was quietly signed by all parties on Monday.
While declining to offer specifics, the parties said in a joint statement that "the terms of the agreement pave the way for the construction of Triple Five's state-of-the-art retail and entertainment destination, while ensuring that the experience for Giants and Jets fans will be enhanced by infrastructure improvements and the implementation of traffic and parking management plans."
All three parties gave credit to Governor Chris Christie, who they say gave them "assistance to resolve this matter for the benefit of all concerned, particularly the residents of the State of New Jersey."
Christie has long supported the project, provided the developers change its multicolored façade, which he once called "the ugliest building in New Jersey, and maybe America."
Christie said on Wednesday that "having been an advocate for this project since the beginning, I am extremely pleased that American Dream is now finally moving forward." He said that "the project will result in thousands of new construction and permanent jobs and be an economic engine for the regional and state economy as one of the premier retail and tourist attractions in North America."
Jon Hanson, Christie's adviser on sports and entertainment projects, told the Newark Star-Ledger that he "anticipates Triple Five will commence construction almost immediately."
Representatives for Triple Five have said that $1.9 billion in financing is needed to complete their new version of the project, $700 million of which Deutsche Bank committed to funding in 2012.