Developers jockey for position after Belmont RFP

And, they're off: Empire State Development is now accepting proposals for entertainment, retail and hospitality projects at Belmont Park.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Like a bugle call summoning the field to the starting gate, New York State is beckoning developers to Belmont Park.

Trumpeting “an exciting and much-anticipated development opportunity on Long Island,” Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky on Monday issued a Request for Proposals for the redevelopment of property within the hallowed racetrack’s grounds, located in the “census designated place” Elmont, within the Town of Hempstead.

Two parcels totaling roughly 36 acres are up for grabs, both currently covered by “vacant and underutilized parking lots,” according to the Empire State Development Corp., Albany’s main economic-development engine.

Site A is an 8-acre parcel bordered by Hempstead Turnpike, adjacent to the Cross Island Parkway; the 28-acre Site B sits south of the turnpike.

Applicants may propose alternative plans that include seven acres of land north of Hempstead Turnpike, adjacent to Site A – but alternative plans must include designs for Site A or both original sites, according to ESD.

However you slice it, the idea is to reimagine Belmont Park – a thoroughbred horseracing mecca opened in 1905 and rapidly approaching a half-century since its last major refit, in 1968 – as a premier sports, entertainment, recreation and retail destination.

“We encourage respondents to submit creative proposals that stimulate vibrant community and economic growth in the region,” Zemsky said Monday.

Redevelopment of the racetrack grounds has been a longtime back-burner project in Albany. Recent discussions have raised quality-of-life objections among area residents, who cite concerns over potential traffic, property values and other issues.

The RFP encourages proposals to shoot for an ambitious set of development objectives, with “benefit the neighborhoods and communities adjacent to and surrounding Belmont Park” right at the top.

Other key points, in addition to meeting those entertainment/hospitality goals: provide “quality jobs,” maximize sustainable “green” construction practices and promote minority-, women- and disabled veteran-owned businesses, according to the RFP.

And all that while “maximizing economic benefit to the state while minimizing the state’s economic and environmental risk,” ESD noted, in uses deemed “complementary to the existing racetrack.”

Potential respondents had better giddy-up: Albany will accept responses only through 2 p.m. Sept. 28.

More information on the RFP is available here. An optional site visit for potential developers has been scheduled for Aug. 17; those wishing to attend must RSVP to BelmontParkRFP@esd.ny.gov.