The City of West Palm Beach Commission gave final approval Thursday to a 50-year lease with a non-profit developer linked to PGA of America that will renovate and operate the city’s 179-acre golf course, a major milestone in the years- long effort to bring the neglected course back to life.
“This is absolutely phenomenal for our city,” Commissioner Christy Fox said of the refurbishment of the course, which is south of Forest Hill Boulevard, east of Interstate 95 and west of South Dixie Highway. “It will create opportunities for our city. It will create jobs in our city.”
Commissioner Kelly Shoaf added: “I just wanted to state for the record that I am very excited about this project. In many ways I think it will be useful.”
Earlier this month, city officials gave their initial approval to an operational and development agreement with the West Palm Golf Community Trust, the non-profit organization formed by the South Florida Chapter of the PGA. of America to reconstruct the course.
City officials have said the future West Palm Golf Park will feature an 18-hole course designed by Gil Hanse, a short nine-hole course similar to his “Cradle” course in Pinehurst, North Carolina, a short play area. complete, two putting greens, a driving range, a clubhouse and facilities. The park will focus primarily on junior golfers with world-class training and golfing experiences at affordable rates.
The lease is for 50 years with an option to extend for another 20 years. The West Palm Golf Community Trust is expected to make an initial investment of at least $ 9 million and pay rent of $ 1 per year. This rent could be increased over 10 years if the course generates excess income, with the city being allowed to use the money to pay for improvements over or on public projects within a half mile of it.
West Palm Beach will pay or waive various fees associated with the project, including application and development fees, impact fees, and utility fees. It will cover property and title insurance.
West Palm Golf Community Trust “will be responsible for all costs of operating and maintaining the golf course, except property insurance” and the city “will have no liability for any operating deficit “, according to a summary of the rental conditions provided to the city commissioners. .
Each month, at least 20 percent of tee times will be available to city residents, who will also benefit from a reduction of at least 35 percent on “the highest green fee rates for non-residents. for that day and that time, “according to the lease summary.
The renovated land is slated to receive new landscaping, a new clubhouse with a bar, dining areas, full-service kitchen and office space for golf course operations.
Plans also include the creation of a PGA-run “Performance Center” which could include indoor / outdoor hitting racks, an education center, club equipment and a putting studio with computer technology and tools. training aids.
The construction schedule calls for the course to receive a certificate of occupancy by September 1, 2023.
The West Palm Golf Community Trust is expected to have at least 5 percent of the construction workforce made up of city residents and 15 percent of the value of the construction contract will go to small businesses. and those belonging to women and minorities.
City officials seem most enthusiastic about the idea that the renovated course does not serve as an exclusive enclave inaccessible to the general public.
“This will expose the golf course to all zip codes in town,” Fox said.
Initial plans for the course’s redevelopment included housing on some of its 179 acres. These plans failed, staying the course in a sort of decaying expectation pattern.
The city had spent millions to renovate the course in 2009, but the greens and the clubhouse fell into disrepair.
In 2015, then-mayor Jeri Muoio had the clubhouse demolished, claiming it was too moldy to repair.
Three years later, the city closed the course, hoping to save on maintenance costs while starting the search for a developer.
This research generated consultants and requests for proposals, but none of the proposals made any progress.
Texas golf instructor Mike McGetrick offered to redevelop the course through a nonprofit foundation instead of relying on construction profits. However, McGetrick couldn’t find funding until the city’s deadline expired in November 2019.
PGA of America then entered the picture.
City officials liked the idea of partnering with an organization with a long history in the sport, including owning a 54-hole resort called the PGA Golf Club in Port Saint Lucia and the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance, also located in Port Sainte Lucie.
The housing aspect of the redevelopment plans had been a stumbling block.
Former city commissioner Shanon Materio, whose district included the site of the golf course, became frustrated with the whereabouts of the plans.
“The land was given to the city for one purpose – a municipal golf course,” she said last year when discussing redevelopment plans. “Not for housing. Not for hotels, nor even as an asset of the city. “
Now, with the plans moving forward, enthusiasm for the future of the course is growing.
“I think you’ve hit the jackpot,” Lake Worth resident Gerald Christiansen said Thursday.