There’s not much optimism for Xanadu out there, at least among a group of execs that appeared on Pat O’Melia’s (pictured) local-access show tonight.
We heard just last week that the massive mall-entertainment center could be delayed, yet again.
A top executive of Secaucus’ top landowner, Hartz Mountain Industries, gave an update on the company’s theater project and had a few carefully critical words of the massive and constantly delayed mega-project across the Hackensack River from our town.
Allen Magrini, senior VP for Hartz, which owns 20 million square feet in town, noted the construction of a new 14-theater multiplex (slated to open in the fall) near the Mill Creek Mall and the conversion of the two existing theaters are among Hartz’ big projects right now. He said one of the old theaters is being converted to an L.A. Fitness facility. Plans for the second theater are not set but he suggested it could become a hotel.
Host Pat O’Melia brought up Xanadu and didn’t parse his words, calling it “one butt-ugly-looking facility out there.” O’Melia, who brought up the recent “discovery” of contaminated soil, doesn’t have high hopes for the project and thinks if it does hit its stride it still will be a problem for the area. “If that thing is successful, it’s a Giants home game seven days a week out there with all the traffic,” O’Melia said on the show.
Magrini was a bit more reserved but couldn’t hide his pessimism: “There’s a long story to be written there. We all know a lot of the past chapters of how it got done. I think we’re all starting to see a little bit more of the rush that happened there to get that project in place. Where it goes in the future I’m not sure. I think in these difficult times that’s a very troubled project.”
O’Melia said that if if Xanadu is successful, “Mill Creek Mall will be a parking lot. All those malls on Route 17 and Route 3, they’re doomed.” He doesn’t see that happening, though. “Or, Xanadu’s a failure. I think Xanadu fails,” said O’Melia.
Another panelist on the show, Joe Panepinto, CEO of Jersey City developer Panepinto Properties, said the financing and up-front costs will make it much more difficult for Xanadu’s brass to come out ahead.
“In the long run, I’ll think there will be significant losses and write-downs on that project,” he said. “And that’s when it will become a competition for our area (Newport-Jersey City).”
Magrini picked up on O’Melia’s traffic riff and noted his company has some experience in the area. “That was always our major problem that we had,” he said of Hartz. “Route 3 is a busy road today. We have 20 million square feet in Secaucus and now all of the sudden you have a huge project with no traffic studies and no real plans for traffic improvements that went through.”
Magrini did note that Mill Creek is open for business with Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, TJ Max, Kohls, PetsMart and Sports Authority, among others, open for business.
O’Melia’s show airs on Thursdays at 7 p.m. on Comcast channel 190. He’s online here.