The shuttered Hazel Park Raceway has been acquired by Ashley Capital, which previously bought a portion of the track to build the Tri-County Commerce Center.

The shuttered Hazel Park Raceway has been acquired by Ashley Capital, which previously bought a portion of the track to build the Tri-County Commerce Center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Ashley Capital buys remainder of Hazel Park Raceway

Fourth of July fireworks to be held at track before demolition begins

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 14, 2018

HAZEL PARK — The developer behind Hazel Park’s sprawling Tri-County Commerce Center has snapped up the remaining land at the former Hazel Park Raceway and is already planning to construct two large buildings there, which are expected to bring new jobs and revenue to the city. 

Ashley Capital completed its purchase of the 95 acres on April 27. The developer, based in New York City with a local office in Canton Township, acquired the land at an undisclosed price from Hartman and Tyner Inc., a real estate developer in Southfield. 

“It’s a great location, right at the intersection of I-696 and I-75 in the metropolitan Detroit area. Some describe it as ground zero for industrial development,” said Susan Harvey, senior vice president of Ashley Capital. “We’re excited. The economy is strong, so we’re planning to move forward on this project immediately.”

The developer is planning two new buildings on the 95 acres. One is expected to span about 600,000 square feet. Ashley Capital has not announced the size of the second building yet, but there is enough room for a building up to 900,000 square feet. 

The developer did not estimate the cost of constructing the two new buildings. However, Ashely Capital did confirm that leasing will be handled by Signature Associates Inc. in Southfield. 

Ashley Capital had previously purchased 36 acres at the track, located at the corner of 10 Mile and Dequindre roads, on which it built the Tri-County Commerce Center, a 575,000-square-foot building that is home to an distribution center, automotive supplier Bridgewater Interiors and an LG Electronics plant manufacturing batteries for the Chevy Bolt. 

That particular project was the largest in Oakland County at the time, and it required extensive site remediation to bring it up to modern code, since the track was built on a Highland Park landfill. 

Ashley Capital received $9 million in brownfield tax credits to clean up the polluted site, and then spent $36 million constructing the building at 1400 E. 10 Mile Road, in what was once an overflow parking lot for the track.  

The Tri-County Commerce Center, one of the largest buildings in Hazel Park’s history, brings in about $250,000 in new taxes each year — and this is a mere 20 percent of what it will earn the city in about 20 years when the brownfield tax credits expire.

With two new buildings now planned at the track, the potential for new jobs and tax revenue is greater than ever, said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher. 

“It’s sad that we’ve lost that entertainment venue, but on the other hand, coming back to reality, there is a great deal more potential for the city of Hazel Park and for the region if we redevelop it, creating more jobs and more tax base,” Klobucher said. “And in the end, that tax base will be much more stable than the revenues that were provided to Hazel Park by the racetrack.”

Back in the ’50s, the track generated nearly 50 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, declining to 25 percent in the ’80s, 10 percent in the ’90s and just 1-2 percent in 2018. City and track officials blame the state for the track’s downfall, citing a lack of support for the racing industry in favor of local casinos. That, and times are changing with more ways to gamble, including online gaming. 

Hazel Park Raceway occupies roughly 10 percent of Hazel Park’s geographic footprint, and its sudden and permanent closure April 5 left residents and track employees stunned, coming one month ahead of the anticipated May 4 opening for the 2018 thoroughbred meet. 

The raceway had been in operation for nearly 70 years. It first opened in 1949 as America’s first five-eighth-mile track and had raced horses since the spring of 1953. Originally a dual-breed facility, the track switched exclusively to harness racing from 1985 to 2014. The thoroughbreds then returned after a 30-year hiatus, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from across the region, and for a time, business seemed to be improving. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.  

Track officials said that the raceway would help the 90 employers there find new employment. And Klobucher said that Ashley Capital plans to construct some kind of memorial honoring the site’s history as a racetrack. 

Harvey said Ashley Capital liked working with Hazel Park on the Tri-County Commerce Center. Other partners on the project included the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Department of Environment Quality and Oakland County Economic Development. 

“We (at Ashley Capital) have about 20 million square feet of industrial property in the state of Michigan … and as you can imagine, we’ve worked in many communities, and they’re very different from each other,” Harvey said. “So when I say Hazel Park is a good community to work in, I’m saying that with 21 years of experience here at Ashley Capital and in multiple communities. 

“I think what makes Hazel Park unique is, while they’re certainly very eager to get development for their community, they’re also very responsible about looking out for the taxpayers and trying to get the best project for them,” Harvey said. “They also make the administrative process — like zoning changes for the property, and brownfield plan approval — very streamlined, so you’re not tied up for months and months in bureaucracy, waiting for approval.” 

She noted that heavy equipment could be on-site as early as the second half of July. The city will hold the Fourth of July fireworks at the track, and then Ashley Capital hopes to commence with demolition and site work.