RXR scales down, prepares to propose Engineers Country Club development

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Engineers Country Club, located in the Village of Roslyn Harbor. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

RXR Realty, which owns Roslyn Harbor’s Engineers Country Club and holds about $18.8 billion in gross assets, hopes to have a housing development proposal ready to present to the village board by September, said Joseph Graziose, RXR executive vice president of residential development and construction.

The likely scope of that potential development shrank in July when a newly released village land use study concluded that the village’s zoning code should remain as is.

The code requires that lots in the country club’s zone be a minimum of two acres, which means the approximately 139-acre property could potentially fit about 70.

To preserve the open space, however, the village is considering borrowing from a state provision that allows for the clustering of development in exchange for the preservation of open space. That would likely look like a multiunit building where the number of units would be equivalent to the number of lots the land could legally be subdivided into.

When RXR purchased the country club it was dreaming much bigger, Graziose said. It was thinking of something like its six-building, 230-unit Ritz-Carlton Residences in North Hills, and it went ahead drafting large-scale plans despite a village moratorium on subdivisions that lasted the length of the land use study.

RXR created a variety of iterations of what the development could look like, Graziose said, but they’re no longer possibilities because the zoning will maintain the two-acre lot standard.

“Given the moratorium went on for so long, which was a bit frustrating for us, we probably spent more time penciling out things that aren’t going to come to fruition because we didn’t want to stop working,” he said.

Now, the moratorium is lifted and the Roslyn Harbor Board of Trustees plans to formally accept the land use study when it returns from its summer recess in September. Graziose said his goal is to have something prepared to present by then.

If the village is willing and able to expedite approval processes, he said he would ideally start construction a year from now.

“I think that’s reasonable if you have two sides that are willing to work with each other,” he said.

Frederick P. Clark Associates, which conducted the land use study, concluded that the best way to maintain the open space the country club’s 18-hole golf course offers would be to cluster the development.

Graziose said he is in favor of such an approach and Mayor Louis Badolato has hinted support as well.

But if for some reason that does not work out, whether it be an unreasonable profit margin for RXR or another hurdle, RXR would look to partner with another firm to develop more expansively on the golf course with single-family homes, Graziose said.

“It’s at the very bottom of our list, but we have to consider that given the economics,” he said.

RXR purchased the country club as an investment in 2017 when the club was nearly bankrupt and has invested about $5 million in maintenance since then, he said.

“In order to have 100 plus acres of open space always for 100 years known as Engineers Country Club, something has to give and the give is to put a residential community within that,” Graziose said. “Otherwise it just goes away.”

A multifamily development would likely mean fewer cars in the village than single-family homes and offers Long Island seniors a desired opportunity to downsize, he said.

“I think that we’ve rejuvenated that club to something that it hasn’t been in many, many years and with a commitment like that … the success equation between the trustees’ support, the understanding of the community, the ongoing operation of the country club and this 80-unit development on a piece of it sounds like a nice recipe for the stability of the equation,” Graziose said.

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