Stalled Xanadu project still has a pulse

The Record –

The final meeting of the year for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority board came and went Wednesday with no news about a new operator for Meadowlands Xanadu. 

But board Chairman Carl Goldberg said the long-stalled, 2 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment project remains viable. 

“It is absolutely not dead,” Goldberg said. “I don’t want anyone to think that the conversations have not been continuing. Quite the contrary, we are moving forward on an accelerated basis. Everybody involved with these conversations continues to be optimistic that a positive announcement is forthcoming in short order.” 

Goldberg also confirmed that “multiple” bidders remain. Though he didn’t name them, sources familiar with negotiations in recent months have identified Triple Five — parent company of the Mall of America in Minnesota — and the DeBartolo Group as finalists. 

State officials and Colony Capital executives spent months this year negotiating with Related Cos., the Manhattan-based real estate firm owned by billionaire Steve Ross. 

But Colony was effectively foreclosed upon by its lending group in August, and since then negotiations with the other suitors have intensified. 

Earlier bidders  

The Xanadu plan was approved as the Meadowlands arena site redevelopment plan in 2003 after a six-month bidding process that included Triple Five as one of the five losing bidders. 

Triple Five’s bid was dismissed almost immediately because it contained plans for housing at the site.

A pair of NASCAR racetrack-related bids also were rejected. 

The other finalists were Hartz Mountain Industries-Forest City Ratner and Westfield, but Xanadu officials projected the most economic benefits and job creation. 

The DeBartolo Group includes a subsidiary called DeBartolo Development, which has more than a dozen projects in Florida — including several malls. Also, DeBartolo Realty merged with Simon Property in the mid-1990s and briefly became known as Simon DeBartolo. The latter group, now again known as Simon Property, sold the Bergen Mall in 2003 to Vornado Realty. 

A series of lawsuits, plus the economic woes of original Xanadu developer Mills Corp. – which went out of business in 2007 – stalled the $2 billion project at the Izod Center for years. 

Colony Capital took over Xanadu in November 2006 and made some construction progress, but the 2008 recession slowed development. Then a lender’s default on anticipated loans halted construction in March 2009. 

The multicolored Xanadu facade has been the object of derision since it went up five years ago. Sports authority officials have promised that any subsequent developer will have to make changes in the color pattern.

E-mail: brennan@northjersey.com Blog: northjersey.com/brennan Twitter: @BergenBrennan

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