CHERRY HILL, NJ-In a sale that took a year to consummate, Garden State Park is now in the hands of a joint venture partnership that will demolish the thoroughbred and standardbred racing facility and replace it with a commercial mixed-use development. The track will close after one more racing season in the fall of 2001, and give way to residential, shopping, entertainment and office uses.

Track owner International Thoroughbred Breeders had contracted to sell the 223-acre property to Turnberry Associates of Aventura, FL a year ago. Along the route to closing, Turnberry added Realen Properties of Berwyn, PA as a joint venture partner.

“The closing of the sale has indeed occurred,” confirms Realen Properties president Dennis Maloomian. His firm will serve as the development partner in the arrangement.

The original Garden State Park dates back to the 1940s, operating until a disastrous fire destroyed the grandstand in the late ’70s. The facility was rebuilt in the late ’80s and re-opened with much fanfare. But increasing competition from nearby racetracks, Atlantic City’s casinos and slot machines added at Delaware Park, about an hour to the south, sent GSP into a downward spiral that resulted in significant operating losses.

Realen/Aventura expects to build upscale housing on the site, including an adult community component. To go with that, according to Maloomian, will be retail facilities and an office component. High-tech related companies are expected to be a target for the latter, and a little-used train station on the site may be turned into a major commuter stop.

And while the grandstand and most of the other buildings will be demolished, the property’s pavilion, which has been used for everything from concerts to horse auctions, will be retained and utilized as an arts center. The site will also include parklands with hiking and biking trails.

The sale price has not been disclosed, but the property currently has an assessed value of $47 million. The new owners are expected to ask the township and the state for some tax breaks, and community officials have hinted that their response to such a request would be favorable.

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