Moncler won’t be part of American Dream’s luxury retail wing, contrary to the mega-mall’s prior announcements.
On Thursday, American Dream, New Jersey’s 3.3 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment center, announced in a press release that its luxury shopping wing will open on September 17. Dubbed The Avenue, the area’s featured retailers will include Saks Fifth Avenue, Hermès, Saint Laurent, Tiffany & Co., Dolce & Gabbana and Mulberry, according to the statement. Ken Downing, chief creative officer at American Dream, said Jonathan Adler, Johnny Was and Zadig & Voltaire will also open stores at that time. The venue plans to celebrate the opening of The Avenue with several events in September.
As of May 2019, the luxury wing was set to include Barneys New York, complete with a Freds at Barneys restaurant, as well as Moncler and Watches of Switzerland stores. In October 2019, Barneys filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to close all of its stores. Meanwhile, Moncler and Watches of Switzerland were not included in American Dream’s July 8 announcement on The Avenue. Moncler confirmed that is no longer opening a store at American Dream, though declined to comment further, and Watches of Switzerland did not return requests for comment. When asked about the status of the Watches of Switzerland store, an American Dream press contact stated that the company is only sharing the names of the stores listed in its press release, “but additional names will be coming very soon.” They declined to share what stores have pulled out.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it: The pandemic set us back,” said Downing. “But we’ve been very fortunate that among the great [retail] partners we anticipated [working with], there were few that did not make it over the finish line with us. We’re taking it as a challenge.”
The Avenue will open with around 20 stores, and more will roll out over the next year and a half. Multiple retailers that will take up 80,000 square feet of the space will be announced in about 30 days, Downing said. All have signed multi-year leases.
Barney’s was originally set to be housed in “the front” of the space directly across from Tiffany & Co., Downing said. The 50,000-square-foot space is currently vacant.
A 300,000-square-foot space, The Avenue is still set to include fish ponds and gardens, designed by Paloma Teppa of Miami-based design firm Plant the Future. They’ll include 16-foot-tall sculptures by Jonathan Adler, based on his Muse collection. Adler also designed intimate “sitting salons” for the luxury wing, Downing said.
Valet parking will be immediately available outside of The Avenue. However, original plans for a VIP Concierge Service, VIP dressing rooms and personal shoppers for the luxury stores’ customers are still “in motion,” Downing said, and won’t be available by opening day. Adjoining “hotel towers” are also still being planned, though developers won’t break ground on them for 6-8 months. They’ll feature pedestrian overpasses to The Avenue stores. American Dream has a Curbside Pickup location for stores offering buy-online, pick-up-in-store.
Despite the fact that The Avenue won’t yet be buttoned-up, Downing saw September as an ideal opening date. “With New York Fashion Week returning to in-person shows, the Met Ball moving to September and the public feeling more comfortable as we appear to be on the better side of the pandemic, we wanted to seize the moment,” he said.
To lure shoppers out of the gate, the featured luxury retailers are set to offer exclusive products and collections, and host trunk shows and designer appearances. For further awareness of The Avenue, American Dream will run digital and print ads and billboards, which have been successful for the company which already has “travelers coming in from a 100-mile radius and beyond,” said Downing. He said the mall constantly communicated during the pandemic, via emails and social media, to keep its guests and followers engaged. American Dream is planning to host pre-events — offering sneak peeks of The Avenue, currently blocked by a wall — starting after Labor Day.
Around 100 American Dream stores were originally scheduled to open on March 19, 2020, but the pandemic delayed the openings until October 1. Its open stores include flagships of Zara, Sephora and Uniqlo, among others.
As for foot traffic thus far, there’s been “a groundswell of enthusiasm for the project,” with the DreamWorks Water Park being the biggest draw, Downing said. In May, “Jersey Shore” star Jenni “JWoww” Farley hosted a cocktail party at American Dream for the opening of her mommy-and-me store, Heavenly Flower. It attracted 80 people.
American Dream has been en route to fully opening for 18 years, experiencing challenges at every turn. In March, owner Triple Five Group defaulted on its $3 billion American Dream loan, and was forced to turn over 49% of its stake in Mall of America and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada to its financial lenders. Triple Five Group first sealed the deal to take over the development in 2011. At the time, the center, which had been in the works since 2003, was 85% complete and at a standstill.