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Life Time Fitness turns down IDA help for Garden City health club

A rendering of the three-story fitness complex planned

A rendering of the three-story fitness complex planned by Life Time Fitness of Minnesota in the former Fortunoff's Clearance Center building at 750 Zeckendorf Blvd. in Garden City. Photo Credit: Zeckendorf LLC

A health club proposed for the site of the former Fortunoff clearance center in Garden City won't receive controversial tax breaks from Nassau County, officials confirmed this week.

Life Time Fitness Inc., based in Minnesota, "determined that the program requirements did not fit the business model we have in place for this facility," said spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw, referring to strings attached to the tax breaks offered by the county's Industrial Development Agency.

In August the IDA's board of directors offered Life Time a $2 million sales-tax exemption and a 20-year deal on property taxes that freezes them for five years at the current rate, followed by increases of 2 percent in each of the next 15 years.

In return, Life Time would construct a $44 million health club at 750 Zeckendorf Blvd. and hire 181 workers.

To qualify for assistance, IDA officials said Life Time would need to charge its members rent for the lockers they use -- establishing a "landlord-tenant relationship" that would serve as an exception to the 2013 state law barring tax breaks for retailers.

The Life Time facility, as with all projects aided by the IDA, also would be required to employ local construction workers wherever possible.

Bushaw wouldn't disclose why her company turned down the IDA's help. "The details of our business model are considered proprietary. As such, I am unable to provide additional specifics around this decision."

She also said Life Time appreciates the tax breaks it received from the county for a health club opened in 2011 in Syosset. "We support the IDA's mission to offer business development incentives."

Last summer, the IDA was criticized in some quarters for backing Life Time because other health clubs in the area haven't received tax breaks and state law prohibits such assistance from being given to retailers.

"After lengthy negotiations, we could not agree on the terms of this transaction," said Joseph J. Kearney, the IDA's executive director. "As a result, I don't know the extent of the jobs they are going to provide, the labor they are going to provide. I have no idea what they will end up having at that facility."

Life Time expects to open the 130,000-square-foot club in late 2015 or early 2016. It will feature indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a restaurant and cafe, spa, salon and children's recreation area.

The property, near the entrance to Roosevelt Field mall, was long home to a clearance center run by Fortunoff, the former jewelry, gift and home furnishings retailer based in Westbury.

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