Developers hoping to build housing on Delray Beach golf course

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DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach’s nearly 100-year-old golf course is about to get a major face-lift — and developers are salivating at the opportunity to build on a prime stretch of the course along Atlantic Avenue.

The city’s aging golf club needs between $10 million to $15 million in repairs, so Delray Beach is offering 6 acres of the property to a developer in exchange for fixing the course.

And based on the early proposals, developers have big ideas for the course. One plan would call for 420 luxury apartments to be built along Atlantic Avenue, while another would add more than 300 apartments and a 128-room Springhill Suites by Marriott.

The city has already put the kibosh on the proposals due to conflicts of interest, but the bids paint a picture of how developers envision the prime available 6-acre piece of property, which is a rarity in Delray Beach.

More than 98% of the city is already built out, according to city documents, making it harder for developers to accumulate large pieces of land for housing developments. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Delray Beach has been a hot spot for luxury development with flocks of wealthy out-of-staters migrating to South Florida for the sunny weather and popular nightlife.

Similar to the region, the city is facing an overall housing shortage, making homes or apartments a likely possibility for the golf course land.

One proposal would have resulted in Phillips Development building 420 luxury apartments with 3-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 1-bedroom units. Twenty percent of the project, 84 units, would have been allocated for workforce housing.

In the 77-page proposal, Phillips Development said the repairs to the course would make it a “first-class, nationally known golf experience, one that makes a significant contribution to the city and community.”

The second proposal called for 312 apartments with a mix of 3-bedroom, 2-bedroom, 1-bedroom and studio apartments, beginning at $1,200 a month. Noting the shortage of affordable housing, Capital Group Developments said having a mixed-income apartment would “help attract employers in Delray Beach and provide opportunities for local residents to find quality housing at affordable prices” while offering a “live, work, play environment.”

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The five-story hotel would have included restaurants and a 4,000-square-foot event center offering live entertainment, such as a 4,000-square-foot event center that could “host a series of shows ranging from dinner theatre plays to chefs competitions, live music shows, performing arts performances including state of the art holographic shows from famous artists.”

Regardless of the developer, the 18-hole course will remain open to the public once repairs are finished.

Built in 1926, Delray Beach Golf Club has provided public access to the links for nearly a century at its course at 2200 Highland Ave. But the course has experienced plenty of wear and tear over the years. Sharon Painter, who oversees the club, told commissioners last year the course is well past its useful life.

Among the issues needed to be addressed are replacing the drain pipes that run underneath the course. That would mean tearing up parts of the course in order to make the repairs. City officials say other golf course repairs and upgrades to the restrooms, maintenance facility and parking lots also are necessary.

The city began discussing the idea of an outside developer funding the repairs last year, leading to the pair of unsolicited bids for the land. The proposals were turned down due to conflicts of interest with design members of the team, not because of anything specific regarding the plans, according to public records.

In April, city commissioners unanimously approved hiring an outside real estate firm, CBRE, to begin soliciting bids for the land. The city is hoping to have a developer selected by the end of the year.

It’s unclear whether the developers will resubmit their bids. A representative from CBRE could not be reached for comment.

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