Even though it has been 16 and a half years since the Garden State Park in Cherry Hill hosted its last horse race, the land it has not sat dormant for even a second.
Shortly after the track was closed, the 350-acre site was zoned as a planned-unit development and purchased by several developers.
Where the receiving barns were located, according to now-retired jockey Tony Black – a frequent visitor and competitor at the Racetrack – Tristate Properties expects to deliver 605 units and create the 55+ community Plaza Grande at Garden State Park.
“The way racing is, there is only so much room for so many racetracks in the country,” Black said. “The redevelopment of this land is beneficial tax-wise and revenue-wise. The redevelopment of this site is a convenience for many of the locals in these communities.
“Being a person who raced here for all those years, walking through and coming here, I just can’t believe how enormous this tract of land is. It’s going to be beneficial to my generation.”
And while Tristate Ventures has been the developer of the 33-acre parcel since 2014, managing partner John Fasciano said his involvement in the development goes back to the closing of the track itself.
“I knew of the site, but we were more focused on the retails and didn’t really look at the residential. The retail world kind of turned upside down and us guys that need to do stuff, wanted to do stuff, needed to find ways to make money.”
A Wegmans now stands where the starting pole for the three-quarter-mile race begins, Black said.
Fameco Real Estate was sold to CBRE and led Fasciano to Tristate Ventures. The managing partner also said the recession brought him and his firm an opportunity to grow into residential development after developer DR Horton first purchased the 33-acre site in the early 2000s.
“DR Horton took some time to get it approved and so forth and finally began construction in 2004,” Fasciano said. “By the time they got the first four buildings – which is the first four buildings of 20 buildings that will be built there – by the time they had gotten them built, the market had hit the tank and they decided to close up shop and liquidate.
“One of the things that attracted me to the site was not only the land price, but there was (about) $20 million of infrastructure already completed, which never happens. I have bought a lot of real estate and you always have to do the work.”
Since 2014, Tristate Ventures has completed two buildings and is nearing completion on the third of 20 that will be constructed in the 33-acre site.
The developer said that although it came in halfway through the development, Cherry Hill has been able to work with it to market the units as both rentals and condominiums.
Each building houses 30 market-rate units and 2 COAH units, Fasciano said.
When the development is completed, Plaza Grande will house 29 COAH units.
And even though the three buildings Tristate have built are being marketed as rentals, Fasciano is confident the market is set to change.
“What we’ve realized is this plan, albeit good for the tenants, needs to be expanded for people to buy,” he said. “We’ve come up with a revised plan that has five different units ranging from 580 square feet to about 1,200 square feet for a two-bedroom. The units we will be selling we will still have that 750-square-foot one-bedroom, but we will have up to 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom, we’ll have a 1,300-square-foot one-bedroom with a den, we’ll have a 1,5000-square-foot two-bedroom and we’ll have a 2,000-square-foot two bedroom.”
Fasciano said that with the first of a total of 20 buildings fully leased and its second building at 75 percent leased, he expects the momentum to keep growing.
Rents at Plaza Grande start at $1,500.
Part of it, he said, is due to the 18,000-square-foot clubhouse and other resident amenities that were recently delivered, but by and large, he said he expects his product to be successful because it is needed in Cherry Hill.