Waterford Village – MLive

Published: December 2, 2020

Developer seeks to transform West Michigan golf course into large-scale housing, office complex

MLive | Brian McVicar | December 2, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — An Illinois-based real estate investment firm has resubmitted plans to transform the Lincoln Country Club property in Walker into a large-scale housing development, complete with apartments, single-family homes and office buildings.

Stoneleigh Companies has an agreement in place to purchase the 100-acre golf course, banquet hall and bowling alley at 3485 Lake Michigan Drive NW if the city of Walker signs off on the firm’s request to rezone the property for residential and commercial use, said Stoneleigh President Rick Cavenaugh.

The company owns and manages multifamily housing communities in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas.

The firm’s plans call for the construction of a series of one-story buildings, housing 204 high-end apartments and 68 lots available for single-family homes. In addition, plans call for preserving 10 acres of the property along Lake Michigan Drive for commercial office space.

“We’re going to provide quality housing to a market that’s growing,” said Cavenaugh, whose company is based outside of Chicago in Barrington, Illinois. “You always need new product in housing. Not everybody wants to buy a 1970s house or live in a 1982 apartment building, and as Grand Rapids continues to grow and do well, it needs to have additional housing.”

Monthly rental rates for the apartments, each of which is expected to have an attached two-car garage, would range from an average of $1,500 to $2,200, Cavenaugh said.

His firm would sell the 68 lots for single-family homes to home builders, and would not be involved with the properties moving forward. The same would be true for the portion of the property slated for commercial real estate, which would be sold to companies that wish to build offices there, Cavenaugh said.

The Walker Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on Stoneleigh’s rezoning request for Jan. 27.

The county club property is one of the last remaining large, open spaces in that portion of Walker. The potential redevelopment of the property, which would include the demolition of the club’s bowling alley and banquet hall, would represent a significant change for the neighborhood. The idea of such a major change has created concern among some residents, said assistant city manager Frank Wash.

“Anytime that you have established neighborhoods around a big open space — people like that,” he said. “Simply stated, they like having that living environment. So, if that open space is going to change, that’s quite a shock to the system.”

Lincoln County Club is owned by New York-based AMF Bowling Centers, according to Stoneleigh’s development application filed with the city of Walker. A representative from AMF Bowling Centers could not be reached to discuss the project or its decision to sell Lincoln County Club.

Cavenaugh declined to say for how much his firm plans to purchase the property. A document advertising the property, from the real estate firm CBRE Grand Rapids, listed the asking price as $5.1 million.

Stoneleigh’s new plans mark the second time the firm has submitted documents to redevelop the property with the city of Walker.

The firm submitted plans to the city earlier this year, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. But it was forced to pull those plans back because its contract to purchase the property from AMF Bowling Centers, the country club’s owner, was not finalized, Cavenaugh said.

“We had thought that the contract would be signed prior to that point,” he said. “It wasn’t, and we probably got a little bit ahead of ourselves in submitting it and getting the feedback. So, we had to pull the
site plan that we had submitted.”

The pandemic delayed his firm from resubmitting plans until September, Cavenaugh said. Following the resubmittal, a meeting with neighborhood residents was held online, during which participants provided feedback on the plan.

Cavenaugh said he has tried to make the development palatable to residents who are concerned about noise, traffic and other changes to the area. He said the city’s master plan calls for residential density that would allow up to 462 housing units, and that his proposal includes 227 housing units.

Designs have also been altered to provide more green space between the apartment buildings and neighborhood properties.

In addition, revised plans also include an option to remove a road connecting the development to Maplerow Avenue NW. The street runs through a residential community, and neighbors were worried about additional traffic, said Wash, the assistant city manager.

“I don’t think it’s a bad plan,” he said. “It’s certainly at least from a preliminary standpoint consistent with the new master plan. But the devil’s going to be in the details.”

Wash said the planning commission, when examining the rezoning request, will look at features such as the amount of space between the development and neighboring homes, open space preservation  nd natural feature preservation.

Cavenaugh said building the apartments would cost an estimated $35 million. If the project receives the necessary approvals in a timely fashion, he said construction on the apartments could be completed by fall 2022 or spring 2023.