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Xanadu falls short
Xanadu Overview
[Link] to original proposals

New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority [NJSEA] Xanadu web site


The Record Editorial, Sunday, October 17, 2004

Xanadu falls short

Xanadu, the giant entertainment-retail center planned for the Meadowlands, is named after the "stately pleasure dome" of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem.

But it could turn into the North Jersey Nightmare.

That's because developers and public officials have yet to live up to some key promises crucial to keeping this potentially beneficial project from turning into a huge and costly mistake.

Scheduled to open in 2 years on the site around Continental Arena, Xanadu's entertainment-retail center will be 20 percent larger than Garden State Plaza. The entire complex, including office towers and hotel, would be 2 times larger.

A key benefit of this giant project is it could revitalize the Meadowlands complex at a time when the Nets and Devils - and possibly the Jets - could be headed for new venues.

It also has the potential to create thousands of jobs, add millions of dollars to tax rolls and boost the region's economy by drawing visitors to a one-of-a-kind entertainment venue replete with chocolate waterfalls, indoor sky diving and a car-racing track.

But those employees, together with thousands of daily visitors, could add up to big problems - including gridlock and substantially dirtier air and waterways. North Jersey residents would have to live with these problems. And they and the rest of the state could ultimately have to pay for fixing them.

Any development requires tradeoffs. The bigger the project, the greater the possible benefits - and risks. But the job of government is to protect the public by ensuring the risks are reasonable.

What the public has gotten so far are promises of protection with limited results.

Just consider how the developers and the agency that oversees the Meadowlands Sports Complex have presented Xanadu in the 20 months since the project was announced, and what has actually happened.

They said the developers, Mills Corp. and Mack-Cali, would commit in writing to help pay for highway improvements to prevent gridlock on the crucial arteries of Routes 3, 17 and the turnpike.

That hasn't happened yet.

The problem is no one knows how much traffic Xanadu will generate because adequate studies have yet to be completed. Unfortunately, that didn't stop state environmental officials from approving the project earlier this month.

The developers - who seem to care only about the driving ease for Xanadu patrons - will pay approximately $32 million for improving roads and highway exits leading onto the site. But what if the turnpike and other highways need new lanes and other improvements - who will pay?

  • They said the project would be a plus for both the environment and the state: The developer was going to donate nearly 600 acres of wetlands for preservation while also paying $25 million to clean up those marshes.

    That's not quite what happened.

    True, a huge swath of wetlands will be preserved, and that's important. But the gift turned into a sale, with the developer receiving a nearly $27 million payment for land that likely could not be built on anyway.

    And the millions promised for cleanup? That essentially vanished.

    The state says paying for the wetlands is far better than a proposal by the developer that would have led to building on other wetlands around New Jersey.

    But since when does the state allow a developer to set the terms for negotiation?

  • They said the deal would allow the quasi-public New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to pay off a huge chunk of its $500 million in debt - saving millions in interest each year.

    Not going to happen.

    Instead of the developer paying $160 million up front, it's paying in several installments, reducing the value to the sports authority.

  • The developer and the sports authority have insisted, repeatedly, that Xanadu would not be a mega-mall. A mall would violate the Meadowlands authority's founding mandate that the sports complex be used primarily for sports and entertainment.

    That promise sounds more hollow by the day.

    The sports authority is twisting the meaning of the word "retail" to stay within its announced limits of 600,000 square feet. By their definition, a planned Circuit City, Virgin Records store and a sporting goods superstore aren't retail because they will include entertainment. But malls include entertainment - and they're still malls.

  • They said the project would create 19,000 permanent full-time jobs.

    That looks iffy.

    More than 12,000 of these jobs would be in the office towers that the developers aren't required to build.

  • All these claims about Xanadu helped sell the project to the public. All are important. But the most pressing problem is traffic.

    Xanadu's developers stand to make a bundle on this project. But their lawyer acknowledges they so far have made only "a verbal commitment" to contribute their fair share - determined by an established state formula - for widening highways and whatever it takes to keep the already horrible traffic in that area from getting worse.

    The state and sports authority must demand that commitment - now, in writing - before construction goes any further.

    To understand what's at stake, imagine driving down Route 3, 17 or the turnpike in five years. When you pass Xanadu, will you think, "What a great idea that was?"

    Or, as you clench your teeth in snarled traffic, will you mutter, "Who the heck is responsible for this disaster?"


Xanadu has gone the extra mile

"Xanadu falls short" (Editorial, October 17), has it backward.  Instead of falling short, Meadowlands Xanadu has gone further than our original proposal in benefits to New Jersey.  It's time to set The Record straight.

We originally proposed spending $65 million for traffic and other infrastructure improvements to the area.  We've now agreed with the Sports Authority and the state of New Jersey to fund additional traffic improvements that will be part of an overall and long-overdue regional transportation program now being conducted by the state Department of Transportation.  We have accepted completion of these improvements as a condition of permits to build Xanadu.

Xanadu has been the catalyst not only for this plan, but also for the commitment of funding for the Post Authority's rail link to the Meadowlands.  We've gone the extra mile, and it's time The Record reflects the facts.

We originally proposed preserving the Empire Tract's 587 acres of wetlands (for which a viable development plan had reached the final approval stages) and recovering part of its value by selling credits worth tens of millions of dollars through a wetlands mitigation bank.  Working with the Sports Authority, the state DEP and responsible environmentalists like the Hackensack Riverkeeper, we've now agreed to forgo that money in exchange for a much smaller financial credit from the Sports Authority.  Also we will contribute millions of dollars to mitigate and maintain additional wetlands elsewhere in the Meadowlands.

We will pay the $150 million to the Sports Authority all at once as negotiated.  The Sports Authority will receive it in installments due to constraints of outstanding lawsuits.  The payments in lieu of taxes all all they were promised to be and will provide property tax relief to local municipalities for years to come.

The jobs promised -- and much sooner than any other proposal considered by the Sports Authority during the request-for proposals process.

New Jersey and Bergen County deserve a more complete record on Xanadu that The Record's editorial provides

James Dausch, Alexandria, VA, October 21, 2004
The writer is president of development for the Mill Corporation.
This letter appeared in "Your Views", The Record, Sunday, October 24, 2004

Advertisement appearing the The Record, October 25, 2004

Meadowlands Xanadu
The Best Always Go The Extra Mile.

Much has been said about Meadowlands Xanadu.  What you don't hear is all we're doing for Bergen County and New Jersey.  So, let the facts speak for themselves.

Transportation Benefits
Meadowlands Xanadu has studied this project more than any other development in the entire region. What's more, for the first time in the region's history, the developer will be funding traffic improvements.  Meadowlands Xanadu also is the catalyst for long-sought rail service to the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Job Creation
Meadowlands Xanadu will create 19,000 construction jobs.  When the first and second phases have been completed, and additional 20,000 permanent jobs will be generated.   This represents more new jobs that any other project in New Jersey.  The developers already have made an upfront payment as if the entire site were redeveloped.

Environmental Benefits
The Empire Tract was to be used as a mitigation bank in the original Meadowlands Xanadu proposal.  A Mitigation bank has substantial value but environmentalists opposed it.   Meadowlands Xanadu understands the importance of working without neighbors and agreed to eliminate the mitigation bank, costing tens of millions of dollars

Meadowlands Xanadu...
A Matter of Fact.


Advertisement appearing the The Record, November 1, 2004

Meadowlands Xanadu
The Best Always Go The Extra Mile.

Much has been said about Meadowlands Xanadu.  What you don't hear is all we're doing for Bergen County and New Jersey.  So, let the facts speak for themselves.

Tax Revenue Benefits
Meadowlands Xanadu will provide millions of dollars every year for the next 75 years in property tax relief for the region's homeowners.  This unprecedented financial arrangement demonstrates that we recognize the importance of working with our neighbors.

World-class Entertainment
Meadowlands Xanadu has just announced many of our first-of-a-kind entertainment partners.   Commitments are now reality.  Meadowlands Xanadu will be a unique destination providing family entertainment and reinvigorating the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Meadowlands Xanadu...
A Matter of Fact.


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