Coliseum finalist picks leave Monti's role unclear

Developer Donald Monti in his studio at the Developer Donald Monti in his studio at the Marriott Residence Inn in Plainview. (June 28, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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The announcement Tuesday of two finalists to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum left unclear the role of Plainview developer Donald Monti, the designated "master developer" of the 77-acre site around the arena.

In November, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano chose Monti to develop the property around the arena, and subsequently sought proposals to overhaul the arena itself. Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, has proposed a $600 million technology park for the area.

Mangano named Forest City Ratner Cos. and The Madison Square Garden Co. Tuesday as front-runners for the multimillion-dollar project. Neither proposal gives Monti a significant role at the site, known as the Nassau Hub.

MSG's proposal leaves 10 acres vacant for future development, but the company would not confirm that the land would be earmarked for Monti.

Forest City Ratner has 10 acres that could be available for Monti. But company officials said implementing their entire vision for the Hub -- including entertainment venues, restaurants and retail -- would significantly cut into the available open space.

Monti said the 10 acres potentially allocated by Ratner and MSG would allow for "nothing of significance" to be built. "Obviously, we would like to see a more comprehensive plan. It's our job to justify that the bigger picture can work."

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Monti said he has no contract guaranteeing him property to develop at the Hub but said he expected to have a prominent role at the Hub.

"I would expect to sit down and work together with whoever is selected," Monti said.

But Kevin Law, a member of a business panel that is advising Mangano about the choice of an arena developer, said that if Ratner's or MSG's plans "utilize most of the property, there's not a whole lot left for him [Monti] to be master developer of."

While merging the visions of two unaffiliated developers may be a challenge, industry experts said it's not an insurmountable problem if the county offers clear direction.

"There's still a possibility for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit," said Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, a smart growth group.

Nassau has done little to clarify Monti's role.

Mangano spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles characterized Monti as the county's "consultant on development" at the Hub, but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing process for reviewing the proposals.

Monti wants to build a research and development park focused on robotics and health care technology. He said he hopes to connect the park with his downtown revitalization project in the Village of Hempstead. Monti said the Hub project would create more than 10,000 permanent jobs and generate $30 billion in gross economic impact over 30 years.

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Monti won a request for qualifications last year to develop the Hub property. He beat out two other firms, including Blumenfeld.

Two of Monti's partners in the Hub project -- Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial restate firm, and RXR Realty, a real estate operating company -- are working with MSG on the arena plan.

The Dolan family holds controlling interest in MSG and owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.

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With Randi F. Marshall

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