Northville Downs, Michigan’s last horse track, to become upscale homes
Northville Downs, the last horse racing track in Michigan, could soon be sold and turned into an upscale housing development.
Homebuilder Hunter Pasteur Homes announced Tuesday that it has a tentative deal to buy the harness racing track, situated near downtown Northville.
The firm said it intends to redevelop the track and adjacent land, totaling 48 acres, to build a mixed-use development with commercial space and 500 to 600 new residences, including high-end apartments, townhouses and single-family houses.
The deal, reportedly for $10.25 million, will not immediately affect Northville Downs, which intends to stay open through the 2020 racing season.
After that, track operations will move to a new site in southeast Michigan that has yet to be determined, said Mike Carlo, the track’s operations manager. The relocation would likely involve constructing an all-new horse track, he said.
“We plan to be operating somewhere else, close to the Northville market,” Carlo said.
This month, Northville Downs became the state’s last horse racing track following the abrupt closure of Hazel Park Raceway.
Hazel Park’s ownership group said in an April 5 statement that it had “entered into an agreement to sell its assets and closing of the transaction is expected within the next few weeks.” No further details have emerged.
Northville Downs has been seeing an uptick in business since Hazel Park shut down, Carlo said.
There were once seven horse racing tracks within 75 miles of Detroit, including tracks in Toledo and Ontario, Canada. Today, the closest tracks are probably in Cleveland and London, Ontario, Carlo said.
Carlo traced the slide in the horse track business to the arrival of casinos in Michigan, which opened up a slew of new gambling options.
Northville has been the site of horse racing since the early 1900s. Its half-mile oval opened as Northville Downs in 1944, when it became the first horse track in Michigan to offer sustained pari-mutuel betting, a system of betting in which those who bet on the winner share the total stakes minus a small percent for the management.
Before the establishment of Northville, pari-mutuel harness racing was limited to county fair programs. The track’s founder, John Carlo, who died in 1986, was Mike Carlo’s great uncle.
“He came to Michigan to get in the racing business, and we’ve been in it ever since,” Carlo said.
“This (sale) was a plan that had been in place for a few years, and it just got solidified back in January,” Carlo said. “They are still doing due diligence on the site.”
A representative for Hunter Pasteur Homes said it is too early in the process to know the anticipated price for the proposed homes.
“This project is in the preliminary stages, and we’re eager to continue working with the City of Northville and our partners to iron out the numerous details that come with a project of this scale,” Randy Wertheimer, president and CEO of Hunter Pasteur Homes, said in a statement. “As more details become available, we will share them with the community.”
Other developers have been eyeing Northville for new upscale homes. Sales began earlier this month for a new development of 16 luxury townhomes in downtown Northville, called North 320, that could welcome its first residents in spring 2019.
Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.