In 2016, the once languishing Oaks National Golf Club in Kissimmee took the title of most improved course in the nation by Golf Advisor after an extensive renovation by new owner, Kothari Group.
But the initial boost in business following the relaunch gradually disappeared. Community support from the established Kissimmee Oaks neighborhood dwindled as interest in golf waned. Only 20 of the nearly 1,000 homeowners in The Oaks maintain a membership to Oaks National.
So Ontario-based Kothari is now the latest in a long line of Central Florida golf course owners to file plans for infill residential development on the golf course. Owner Anupam Kothari turned to NAK Design Strategies to lead the planning effort for the 108 acres, which includes the clubhouse, tennis courts and driving range.
“Financially speaking the golf course is doing quite poorly,” NAK associate Ryan Seacrist said. “Their membership is dwindling. The one-time golfers that might show up on a random weekend aren’t showing up like they used to. So the business model is failing, and they will not be able to operate it as a golf course much longer. In fact they would have liked to have already moved on from that business and recoup some of their losses already.”
This month NAK and Kothari applied for a major amendment to The Oaks Planned Development that would entitle the property for another 587 residential units on the property. The bulk of the entitlements would add 473 multifamily units in the center of the community, where the clubhouse, parking lot and driving range sit today.
Seacrist told GrowthSpotter the proposed master plan would limit the building height to three stories, and a large series of existing and new ponds would separate and buffer the apartment complex from any single family homes. The complex would abut the 200-unit condominium community that was built in the mid-1990s when the community was developed.
“So the adjacency worked out, and it follows the comprehensive plan that (multifamily) development could occur there,” he said. “However, it does add quite a bit of new potential residents to the community. It also changes what was once a more passive and open land use to one that is more dense and more developed out by residential.”
So the team has worked closely with the community’s HOA and a neighborhood stakeholder group throughout the planning process. They will be required to hold at least one community meeting. The owner agreed to designate a portion of the golf course for a new community center building with parking and amenities, and they could require the multifamily developer to participate in the cost of building it. The cart path will be converted to a multiuse trail, and portions of the course that are too narrow for infill development will be deeded over to the HOA for recreational open space.
A small townhouse community with 50 units would be constructed on a portion of the course just north of The Oaks Boulevard, and 64 single family home lots would be scattered about in various locations, including dozens that will now back up to existing homes that now enjoy golf course views.
“While it’s a less intense impact, it’s going to be one that I think a handful of landowners may take exceptions to since their view will be compromised, and they will have an adjacent neighbor that they did not have at one point,” he said.
A 2.45-acre tract that fronts on John Young Parkway would be opened up for general commercial development, and Seacrist said it would likely be developed as a small retail building similar to the strip centers at the community’s main entrance at The Oaks Boulevard.
The project would be broken out into five development phases, starting with construction of the new ponds and apartments in Phase 1, followed by the townhomes, commercial and open space. The new single family lots would be developed last, according to the plan.
The neighborhood was initially approved as a Development of Regional Impact in 1987. Seacrist said the Kothari is also seeking to rescind the expired DRI as part of the PD amendment. It’s on a stretch of John Young Parkway west of Lake Tohopekaliga that is undergoing a transformation with more density and intensity. The Osceola Village Center, just north of Shingle Creek, will bring commercial development and apartments to the lakefront parcel, along with hundreds of homes and townhomes by Avex Homes.