It was terrible timing for a project that had seen numerous delays since its initial approval, under different ownership, in 2003.
In the months since it shut down in March, the retail landscape has changed dramatically.
At its reopening Thursday, only a few dozen of the complex’s planned 300 shops appeared to be open for business. It isn’t clear how many will eventually open their doors. The mall’s restaurants are months away from opening, as New Jersey continues to restrict indoor dining to 25% capacity.
Canada-based owner Triple Five, which also owns Minnesota’s Mall of America and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, is banking on features such as the waterpark, a Nickelodeon-themed amusement park, an indoor ski slope and skating rink to draw visitors. Other planned attractions including a Legoland Discovery Center and an aquarium aren’t expected to open for months.
Maintaining momentum and adapting to an ever-changing set of rules during the peak months of the pandemic were significant challenges, said Richard Ybarra, vice president of retail at the mall.
“We had to be extremely fluid in regard to what updates we had to make, what things were going to look like,” Ybarra said. “You also had to be able to forecast a lot, as in, ‘OK, if you do this, this and this, then this is probably going to happen.’ That was to make sure we weren’t frustrating our tenants or our contractors.”