Golf courses

How fast are golf courses disappearing in South Florida? Developers have gobbled up nearly 20 in the past five years

Just under 20 golf courses have been or are being redeveloped in Palm Beach and Broward counties over the past five years, signaling a growing trend as developers sniff out this rarest commodity, open land.

South Florida’s booming housing market has left developers struggling to find large enough lots for single-family home developments, making golf courses an optimal option for redevelopment.

“Land in suburban areas or near urban cores is scarce,” said Nelson Stabile, president of the Builder’s Association of South Florida. “If you’re trying to develop single-family homes or townhouse communities, it’s become very difficult to find land.”

According to figures from the Office of the Palm Beach County Real Estate Appraiser, there are 104 golf courses remaining in the county, including public, municipal, resort, semi-private and private land.

Over the past five years, 13 Palm Beach County golf courses have been or are in the process of being converted. Some of these include the Polo Trace Golf Course in Delray Beach, where GL Homes has converted fairways, greens and bunkers into 325 accommodations and the former Villa Delray Golf Course, where 13th Floor Homes plans to develop the property into a 55-plus community with 436 residential units, according to the Office of the Palm Beach County Real Estate Appraiser.

In Broward County, 41 golf courses remain. Over the past five years, six golf courses in the county have been converted or are in the process of being converted to single family homes or parklands.

“There is so little buildable land in South Florida that right now golf courses are one of the few options left,” said Alex Yokana, developer at AKAI Estates, who recently is building a development called AKAI Estates in Southwest Ranches. . Although they haven’t built a golf course yet, they have struggled to find enough vacant land for their custom mansions.

Developers are able to convert public or private golf courses, each having similar challenges in terms of rezoning and getting building permits approved.

Another reason golf course conversions have increased in recent years is because of maintenance costs, explained Jeff Lichtenstein, realtor and founder of Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens. Sometimes selling is a better option than servicing.

“An older public course has to make the decision to upgrade its facilities and golf course in order to charge significantly more. more in golf fees,” he said.

The long conversion process

Building on a golf course is not a given. Some municipalities have zoning laws that must be debated and adjusted for construction to occur, and a rezoning process alone can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years, depending on the rules and requirements of the municipality and if it there is a neighborhood uproar as development progresses.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges in the process,” Stabile said.

As part of the rezoning process, developers must submit things like traffic studies and environmental impact assessments. Once the rezoning is approved, they still have to wait for, among other things, site plan approval and building permits.

“Most will have to go through a rezoning process – most golf courses have recreational type zoning or may allow low density residential which is not attractive to the developer. Rezoning, soil samples, site plan approval, etc. are most likely required,” the Palm Beach County Property Assessor’s Office said.

While open land is preferable to suburban sprawl for some homeowners, converting golf courses to homes can boost property values ​​of homes in the surrounding area, Lichtenstein added.

“If they build new houses, it should improve the value because the new houses will be ‘new’. The latest look almost always increases the value,” he said.

Not all yards eventually become single-family home developments. South Florida cities have instead redeveloped some golf courses as parklands, such as the former Sunset Golf Course, where the city of Hollywood bought the golf course to keep it from becoming a campground and instead tried to convert it into a natural park.

Other times, developers are asked to retain green space when converting golf courses into homes. Toll Brothers donated four of the five parcels they purchased to build Century Village East in Deerfield Beach to be built in a park.

What is the next course that has an appointment with the bulldozers? EastPointe, Jupiter is in the early stages of development of approximately 75 single family homes. The golf course has sold its driving range to pay for a new lifestyle center and remodeling of the golf course, according to Victoria Lorusso, agent at Echo Fine Properties.

Interest in the development has already been high, with builders fielding at least 500 community calls, she said.

If golf course congestion continues apace, four more South Florida courses are expected to be developed by the end of the year.