Toys ‘R’ Us Returns With Flagship at American Dream Mall

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The recently revived Toys “R” Us plans to open its first new standalone store in the American Dream mall.

The toy retailer will open a 20,000-square-foot, two-level flagship later this month inside Triple Five Group’s 3.1 million-square-foot megamall in East Rutherford, N.J., Toys “R” Us’ parent, WHP Global, announced Wednesday.

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A spokesperson for Triple Five declined to provide the terms of the deal or the brokers involved.

Aside from hawking toys, the retailer’s new flagship will include a two-story slide, an ice cream parlor and an eatery named after its mascot, Geoffrey’s Café, according to WHP.

“American Dream is a one-of-a-kind unrivaled retail center featuring massive entertainment experiences that make it an ideal destination for families,” Yehuda Shmidman, the chairman and CEO of WHP, said in a statement. “Debuting our first Toys ‘R’ Us flagship here is a no-brainer.”

The deal comes after Skip Barber Racing School signed on to take 40,000 square feet in the mall in July to open its first indoor go-karting academy.

Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and shuttered hundreds of stores around the country. It was later bought by Tru Kids, which opened two mall pop-ups starting in 2018 — one in New Jersey and another in Houston — that both closed in January because of the pandemic, CNBC reported.

In March WHP acquired a controlling interest in Toys “R” Us and later announced plans to open Toys “R” Us shops in 400 Macy’s stores starting next year.

And Toys “R” Us isn’t the only party in the deal with a tumultuous history. The $5.7 billion American Dream mall took three developers and more than a decade to build before Triple Five finally opened its doors in September 2019, just six months before the pandemic forced it to close its doors.

The mall reopened in October and shoppers have started to flock there. Foot traffic has steadily increased since and it reported $83 million in gross sales from July to September, a nearly 6 percent increase compared to the three months prior, according to securities filings. 

It was 77 percent leased as of September with deals pending that would bump it to 82 percent leased, securities filings show. But the project’s not completely out of the woods.

Questions remain on whether it will see return visitors and it’s still carrying about $5 billion in debt. Triple Five had to draw on about $9.3 million in its reserves to cover an Aug. 2 bond payment of about $290 million, with another coming due on Feb. 1, 2022. Plus, the developer lost its 49 percent interest in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and West Edmonton Mall in Canada because it used them as collateral for its construction loans.

“It would have been much better if American Dream would have burned down or a hurricane had hit it, financially, because we would have been covered by insurance,” Kurt Hagen, an executive at Triple Five, said during a Bloomington City Council meeting in March, according to Bloomberg. “This pandemic, that we didn’t see coming, has not been covered and was the worst scenario imaginable.”

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at nrizzi@commercialobserver.com.