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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 5 years ago

Mattamy Homes buys abandoned Sarasota golf course

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The Canadian homebuilder continues its expansion into Sarasota County with the $14.3 million purchase, a precursor to a potential residential project.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

An abandoned Sarasota golf course long mired in legal troubles may be soon put tough times behind it, thanks to developer Mattamy Homes.

The prolific Canadian homebuilder bought the 115-acre Sunrise Golf Club for $14.3 million this month, further expanding its presence in Sarasota County. The shuttered course sits southeast of the Clark Road and I-75 interchange.

The firm, which has partnered with Sarasota-based Vanguard Land Ventures to redevelop the property, aims to place a mix of single-family homes and mutifamily villas on the site. The homebuilder also spent $2.5 million on another two parcels to create an entrance on Honore Avenue to the future gated community.

“It’s just a terrific location there in Sarasota,” said Ed Suchora, president of the Mattamy Homes Tampa-Sarasota division. “Anything you can find west of the Interstate — on the true Sarasota side — just seems to be more desirable than anything.”

Though Suchora said it’s too early to determine the mix or number of units, a development pre-application filed with the county in December shows space for more than 300 lots.

A 150-foot buffer would separate the new neighborhood from the surrounding homes and condominiums, according to plans, and six retention ponds would mitigate stormwater issues. Mattamy is also proposing a roundabout at Honore and Bridgehampton Boulevard.

County commissioners will ultimately have to approve plans to convert the current zoning, which is split into three designations, into a planned-unit development classification. Suchora doesn’t anticipate much controversy regarding the proposed project.

“We don’t plan to try to do something like that previous developer,” he said.

New digs

In the mid-2000s, local developer Rod Connelly sought to redevelop the course into nearly 700 condominiums, but nearby residents protested the plan. They contended the previous owner of the golf course’s lease prevented new development through 2022.

Connelly had purchased the site out of bankruptcy for $3 million in 2003. Courts ruled in favor of residents in 2006.

“It seemed such a shame that they didn’t allow future development to come in, because it would have upgraded the property and helped instead of letting it go fallow,” said real estate agent Candy Swick, of Candy Swick & Co., who has sold properties in the surrounding 378-home Sunrise neighborhood.

That will likely change.

The homeowners associations representing Sunrise Golf Club Estates and other neighborhoods signed an easement and contract with Vanguard earlier this year, allowing the partnership to redevelop the abandoned course. The covenant, which was originally drafted with Connelly’s firm, Civix, requires construction of a linear park within the buffer surrounding the property.

“We’re very happy,” said Norene Wilson, president of the Sunrise Golf Club condominium. “We think it will definitely help (property values), because it’s a good homebuilder.”

Suchora said he looked at the success of Esplanade by Siesta Key, a Taylor Morrison development west of Clark Road, as inspiration for the still-unnamed neighborhood skirting Palmer Ranch. As plans come together, residents are looking forward to the final results.

“Anything is going to better than what’s there now,” Wilson said. 

Par for the course

With Mattamy’s Enclave and coming development at Sunrise, along with two more proposals from Manatee County homebuilder Medallion Homes, there are at least four derelict courses that are under redevelopment or have owners actively seeking to do so.

“Golf really went out of favor nationally with the recession, because people didn’t have the expendable income, and a lot of these courses were minimally funded that weren’t in a big country club,” said Sarasota-Manatee Building Association CEO Jon Mast. “Those are the ones that went out of business.” 

Not every project has been as well received as the one at Sunrise. In October, Medallion drew the ire of neighbors around the Gulf Gate Golf Course, proposing to replace the links with a 109-home community. In an even more contentious plan, Medallion will soon begin building homes on the old Foxfire Golf Club east of I-75, which nearby residents have claimed is too close to a an old landfill.

“They should definitely want those tracts of land to become productive again, and the county commissioners should want them back on the tax rolls,” Mast said. “It’s urban infill, and that’s the attraction.” 

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