Developers were in Elmont on Monday March 11th showing their preliminary plans for the development of the 28 acre Belmont Park south parking lot (Parcel B) and the 8 acre portion (Parcel A) of what we will call Belmont Park Proper on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike.
The Engle Berman Group and Basser – Kaufman: The first presenter was the team composed of The Engle Berman Group and Basser – Kaufman. Both companies are based on Long Island and together, have over 90 years of development experience. The Engle Berman Group has developed notable projects such as Lowes in Garden City, Famous Dave’s and City Cellars in Westbury; Stop and Shop in Oceanside; and Bristol Assisted Living facilities throughout Long Island. Engle Burman is also developing the luxury condominiums on the Doubleday property in Garden City. Basser – Kaufman developed the Cherry Valley Stop and Shop supermarket in West Hempstead, and Staples, Home Goods, and Pepboy’s shopping center in Hempstead.
The team claims the distinction of having developed more property in the Town of Hempstead than any other respondents to the RFP and as such are a natural fit to develop the parcels at Belmont Park. They disclosed that as part of the RFP, Target and Stop and Shop have a significant interest in the site and have expressed their interest in writing. Of note, the team has developed more than 1500 housing units throughout the Town of Hempstead.
Blumenfeld Development Group: is another Long Island based developer. The organization has been in business since the seventies (1970’s) and has developed over 4 million sq.ft. of office/retail space. Their core strength is retail / industrial and office space. They developed the Tanger Arches in Deer Park and the only big box center in Manhattan at 116th Street and the FDR.
A point of pride for the company is the Bulova Corporate Center near LaGuardia Airport in Queens. The building was re-purposed to include a museum, health club, auditorium and a cafeteria. This was done in cooperation with the local community.
Cosmos – The developers of the minor league soccer stadium proposal were notably missing as a presenter to the community.
Of the developers that did show, the community learned the following:
- Both groups offered a combination of retail space with national anchors (Target, Stop and Shop etc.), restaurants, community spaces and open air fields.
- Both groups made proposals for the 28 acre south lot, but both developers passed on the 8 acre parcel (Parcel A) on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike noting that the preferred uses outlined in the Belmont RFP were not economically feasible.
- Both groups met the parking variance requirements (Belmont Stakes Race Day parking will be reserved for the event - roughly 1200-1400 spaces).
- Both proposals include recreation (soccer, basketball, tennis, football) and community centers.
The community was pleased that both builders considered the ill effects (both environmentally and esthetically) of overbuilding on the site and that both chose not to overbuild.
- Can you get a Trader Joe’s? Trader Joe’s is a specialty store requiring only 15 thousand square feet and the interest for the area both from the developer and for the community is for a 70 thousand square feet full-service supermarket.
- I see open space in the far south corner of the property and a building that looks like a home, please explain. Why did you not bid on the North Side Parcel A? The Belmont RFP required giving land back to the community and both developers propose open air multi-purpose fields on the far south corner of the properly. One developer includes a large community building with open first floor plan and offices on the second floor. The offices may be used by not-for-profit community groups for meetings and offices. Both developers have a firm grasp of process and recognize the need for broad community input before the project is actually built. Their renderings represented starting points in future discussions with the community.
- Why did you not bid on Parcel A – the area on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike? You have a train station there. The Belmont RFP explicitly prohibits residential use, but we would propose “Housing for Young Professionals” said one developer. The developer continued by stating that a hotel on Parcel B may not be the best use of the space because very few days of use exist during the racing season at Belmont Park. A better, more forward looking use, would be “Housing for Young Professionals” because there is a Train Station there and as we all know young people are leaving Long Island. Parcel A presents a real opportunity for Long Island to build for the future and begin to arrest the brain drain out of Long Island.
- Is the Belmont RFP flawed? Both developers acknowledged the Belmont RFP expressly prohibits a type of use (housing) that is part of the Elmont Vision Plan and it misses an opportunity to address the needs of young professionals who may want to live in the area and be 17 minutes from Midtown Manhattan? One developer noted their constant struggles to convince Long Island's town supervisors to permit more housing developments for young profesionals in their towns.