You, Too, Can Own a Piece of Xanadu

Retail/Entertainment Complex Wants to Put Brands Front and Center

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK ( -- Xanadu Meadowlands, modestly billed as the country's largest "retail experience," won't open next to the Giants' and Jets' new football stadium until fall 2008. But it already has $2.5 billion in naming rights deals to offer corporations as it continues to lay the groundwork for its construction.

Talks are under way for sponsorship of boutique retail space and an experiential consumer-electronics project (think Intel Inside).
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Xanadu and its developer, Colony Capital, are courting marketers now to include their brands in the development of the project, seeking presenting partners for five main areas: a fashion retail district, a sports center with the country's first indoor ski slope, a children's "exploratorium" with a large interactive playground, a food and home section, and an entertainment sector with the largest stadium-seating movie theater in the U.S. and a 2,500-seat amphitheater for concerts.

'Mall of America on steroids'
"Bring life to brands" is the favored phrase for Michael Kassan, chairman of Media Link and former chief operating officer for Initiative, who has spearheaded much of the deal making for the project, adding, "It's the Mall of America on steroids."

Serious talks have already been under way, offering A-list fashion magazines the opportunity to sponsor the boutique retail space, as well as with major online corporations to spearhead an experiential consumer-electronics project (think Intel Inside) that would go beyond the typical digital-singage project.

Mr. Kassan looks at the brand partnerships as an ad buy on a grander scale, a "cross-platform opportunity" that would go beyond a full-page magazine ad. "The sponsorship and marketing opportunities are at the very core of the project," he said. "We expect to build it with the partners and brands in mind rather than as an afterthought."

However, given Xanadu's prodigious presence on Route 95 between New York and New Jersey (the site would cover more than 4.7 million square feet and receive annual traffic from 88 million vehicles), the developers made sure to include more than a dozen digital billboards as well.

Budgetary issues
Signing brands now would also help the project after some earlier setbacks. Its former developer, Mills Corp., was acquired for $1.4 billion by Brookfield Asset Management last week to avoid bankruptcy. The budgetary issues have led to several construction delays; the project initially was set to open in 2007. The New Jersey government even stepped in last summer to reinforce its support of Xanadu's overall commercial viability and potential traffic in connection with the football stadium.

As a result, the project is still generating considerable interest from the buying community, which has made an increased effort in recent years to find experiential outdoor opportunities for its clients.

"There's a lot of different business opportunities that would be possible beyond hanging signs up," said Dave Yacullo, director of Omnicom Group's Outdoor Media Group in New York. "Xanadu's really a moving target. It's such a new concept that it's really going to come down to how they can parlay those sponsorships into meaningful opportunities that would build the brand and move product."

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Mills Corp. was Xanadu's developer. Colony Capital has been the developer since November, taking over from Mills Corp., which was recently acquired by Brookfield Asset Management. In addition, the report misspelled Dave Yacullo's name and the city he is based in. It is New York, not Los Angeles.
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