Northwell Health will become the long-awaited anchor tenant at the Nassau Hub, agreeing to build a research and development center on the vacant land at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum, the largest tract of undeveloped land in the county, officials told Newsday Monday.
The announcement comes as the GOP-controlled Nassau County Legislature prepares to host a public hearing Tuesday on an amended lease agreement for the Hub that would give the project's developer the green light to begin work on a $1.5 billion commercial and residential development.
The 225,000-square-foot Northwell Innovation Center will be located at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Earle Ovington Boulevard, across from the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University/Northwell and next to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's new outpatient facility.
Northwell signed a memorandum of understanding Monday inking the New Hyde Park-based health network's move to the Hub.
"This facility will provide momentum and credibility for the Hub development and will be a spark to create more innovation at the Hub," said project developer Scott Rechler, chairman and CEO of Uniondale-based RXR Realty.
The Innovation Center will include a mix of laboratory space, functions needed to support clinical and medical research, and a range of exhibition, education, training and conference activities, officials said.
The timing and cost of the project are still under discussion although Northwell plans to use $20 million in state funds set aside for the Hub. Rechler described the development as a "public-private partnership" although Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said no county money will be used for the project.
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, said the project could warrant additional state funding.
"The potential for Northwell to establish an Innovation Center at the Hub is exactly the kind of transformative development we have been advocating for at the Hub and is consistent with Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s support of our efforts to establish a research corridor on Long Island," Law said.
Adam Kilduff, a spokesman for Empire State Development, the state's primary business development agency, said funds will be allocated "toward a suitable project at this site that will strengthen the community and bolster the local economy."
Northwell provides Nassau with an anchor tenant that can serve as the backbone for its planned biotech park at the Hub, Curran said.
"This is a very important step in transforming the acres of parking lots around the Coliseum into a vibrant live-play-work environment," said Curran, a Democrat who took office in January.
Monday's announcement is Northwell's second attempted foray to expand its medical research facilities to the Hub.
In 2014, Northwell announced plans for the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research to build a $300 million research lab — known as the Center for Bioelectronic Medicine — at the Hub.
In April 2017, Northwell announced that Feinstein was pulling out of the project, citing costs and the difficulty of moving its employees to a new location. The state, which had committed $50 million for the project, permitted Northwell to use $30 million of those funds to upgrade their existing Feinstein facility in Manhasset.
But Northwell officials, seeking to expand their footprint in the rapidly growing life sciences sector, said they remained intrigued by the Hub and its proximity to area universities and medical research facilities.
“Establishing a presence in such a strategically important location as the Nassau Hub is an intriguing opportunity, considering Northwell’s strengths in clinical care, medical education, research and workforce development strengths,” said Northwell president and chief executive Michael Dowling.
Rechler had previously been negotiating with Mount Sinai Health Network to build a 100,000-square-foot medical research facility at the Hub. While those discussions are ongoing, Rechler said his attention is now focused on Northwell.
A Mount Sinai spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Rechler and co-project developer Brett Yormark, chief executive of Brooklyn-based BSE Global, have proposed transforming the 72 acres around the Coliseum into a residential and commercial district.
The plans, which will be detailed for lawmakers Tuesday, call for the construction of 500 units of housing; 600,000 square feet of office and biotech research space; two hotels and 200,000 square feet of entertainment options and "experiential retail," stores that provide additional services for customers.
County lawmakers could vote on the agreement by December with developers breaking ground on the first phase of construction — including two state-funded parking garages with a combined 3,400 spaces — one year later, Rechler said.
County officials for years have sought unsuccessfully to redevelop the sprawling blacktop property off the Meadowbrook Parkway and Hempstead Turnpike.
In 2004, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, who died last month, proposed the Lighthouse Project, which included a renovated sports arena, 2,300 housing units, 1 million square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of retail and a luxury hotel. The $3.8 billion plan was rejected by the Town of Hempstead, which objected to the size and scope.
A 2011 referendum by former County Executive Edward Mangano to borrow up to $400 million to renovate the arena and build a minor league baseball stadium at the Hub was rejected by taxpayers. Wang eventually moved the Islanders to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
In January, Curran called for "a re-imagining" of the Hub property in light of plans for a $1 billion arena and commercial development for the Islanders at Belmont Park. The Islanders will play 60 games at the Coliseum over the next three seasons as the team waits for construction of the Belmont arena.
What: Nassau County will host a public hearing on its planned $1.5 billion commercial and residential development at the Nassau Hub.
When: Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Where: Peter J. Schmitt Memorial Legislative Chamber; 1st Floor; Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building; 1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola