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Latest Xanadu rescue effort gets Christie thumbs up.

Triple Five, the developer of Mall of America, has signed a letter of intent to take over the Meadowlands Xanadu complex, with a plan to revive the stalled project of over two million square feet.

The current owners of the debt, a number of companies known collectively as the Lender Group, fielded potential development plans from a several bidders over the last four months before settling on Triple Five, known for its massive 2.5 million square feet mall in Minnesota.

The Edmonton, Canada-based company, which is owned by the Ghermezian family, has an even larger West Edmonton Mall with nearly four million square feet of retail.

The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, also worked with the lenders to move the project forward.

"We're glad to have Triple Five's long-term investment in New Jersey and I am confident that the developers who created the most visited mall in the world, due to their vision and innovation, will transform the Meadowlands into New Jersey's very own Mall of America," said Christie in a statement. The mall would generate thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in taxes for the state, said Christie's office.

Details of the deal weren't disclosed.

"At this time we are not providing details of financing or budgeting for the project," said Michael Beckerman, spokesman for the Lender Group.

Xanadu was previously controlled by Colony Capital, which had negotiated with the Related Cos., developer of a major retail hub at Columbus Circle, but no deal was made, and Colony lost control after creditors foreclosed on the development in August. Construction was begun on the project, but progress stalled after a Lehman Bros. loan was wiped out in 2008.

Simon Property Group and the Mills Corporation were previous owners of the project, which was initially approved in 2003.

Triple Five is confident that it can transform the project into a major regional attraction, said Dan Jasper, a spokesman for the company, citing the mall operator's 35 years of experience and strong relationships with retail tenants, along with the site's potential for millions of visitors.

"Our hope is essentially to turn this into the Mall of America on the East Coast," said Jasper. "The location is fantastic."

Triple Five will consider changes to the project, including modifying the Xanadu's multicolor facade, which has attracted critics. It will unveil more specific plans for the site in 2011.

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Comment:Latest Xanadu rescue effort gets Christie thumbs up.
Author:Li, Roland
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 29, 2010
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