Celebration-based developer Signature H Property Group submitted a master plan on Friday to redevelop parts of the 400-acre Apopka Golf and Tennis Club at Errol Estates, and believes it has a new mixed-use model to save ailing golf courses, a lead executive with the company told GrowthSpotter.
Located between Errol Parkway and Vick Road in Apopka, the Errol Estates property has fallen on hard times in recent years, like many legacy golf courses in Florida.
The course and country club now loses an estimated $50,000 per month to stay open. Owner Larry Klein, who acquired the property in October 2014, had to give 11 acres to the city in late 2015 to settle a water bill debt left by the previous owner.
Veteran commercial real estate developer Helmut J. Wyzisk, Jr., was approached by Klein in late 2015 to help evaluate multiple redevelopment proposals for the property, but considered all to be too limited in scope.
Determined to solve the riddle of redeveloping Errol Estates' 27 golf holes (nine of which are closed), while coordinating with 30 separate home owner associations covering about 2,500 homes, Wyzisk brought together a team in Spring 2016 that included noted entitlements consultant Richard Levey, planners and engineers at GAI Consultants, and golf course architect Steve Smyers.
Together, they arrived at an economic model that would redevelop vast portions of the property with new commercial anchors and residential, while elevating the golf course to a championship-level status.
"So many factors were involved to find an economic model to save this golf course," Wyzisk said. "It's all about timing, and the timing of growth for the (S.R. 429) Beltway in Apopka and the new Florida Hospital is promising for this and other property in the area."
Dubbed "New Errol," the submitted Planned Unit Development Master Plan for the property was inspired by amenities at communities like Reunion Resort and Baldwin Park.
It calls for a new 15,000-square-foot clubhouse with restaurant, a boutique 40-room lodge hotel, a two-acre water park, outdoor trails and park space, 264 new homes (67 single family, 194 townhomes), and a 240-unit assisted living facility (180 units standard, and a 60-unit skilled care section for acute rehab).
"This is a marriage between a community and resort," Wyzisk said. "The product we're developing isn't typical of Apopka. It's more of what you see in Baldwin Park or Celebration, a higher quality with smaller footprints and new urbanism design."
Because the land is zoned for parks and recreation, Signature H also had to file a concurrent request to amend the city's Future Land Use Map, and create new Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning for 75 acres that will be partially redeveloped for residential and new commercial uses.
"This doesn't fit Apopka's code, so by doing a PUD it allows us new flexibility, but that process involves a new overlay district, and approval by the state," Wyzisk said. "In the end, we hope to have the rezoning approval in August, and the Development Plan approved in October."
The filing follows roughly 12 months of meetings by the developer with homeowner focus groups and city officials. The property is now owned by New Errol Partners LLC, a partnership entity formed by Signature H and golf course owner Klein.
Keys to the redevelopment include adding a new entrance to the property on Vick Road and a new through-road across the middle of the property, building a water park attraction that could serve Apopka residents who have few such options in Northwest Orange County, and adding an assisted living facility as the commercial revenue anchor.
"We believe we've created a new model now, in that there are so many 1970s and 1980s-era golf course communities with 27 holes which already closed nine holes and are on the edge of failure," Wyzisk said. "The ALF inclusion is important as an economic engine for the property, which will support the resort-like atmosphere."
Phase 1 of development would include the new clubhouse and water park, a complete redesign of the 18-hole golf course, the first 24 homes on a plateau area of the property, and the first 90 units of the ALF. Wyzisk estimates hard costs for that phase at $45 million or more.
Redeveloping a golf course is a unique challenge because the areas for improvement are typically narrow strips of land constrained by homes built around each of the greens, said Andrew McCown, planning manager with GAI Consultants.
"You're having to weave new infrastructure through not only the golf course, but also existing (homes) development," he continued. "It's also a challenge from a topography perspective. Errol is a unique place in Central Florida where you have rolling hills we don't find in many other places locally."
The area to be redeveloped for residential covers the 6th through 9th holes of the Lake course, along with the present-day driving range. The ALF sits on the old Grove course 7th and 8th holes.
New home construction would follow based on sales, Wyzisk said. His group expects to custom-design each village cluster of homes, with homebuilders to be consulted after.
All aspects of construction will be managed by Karotech Construction Group. A residential real estate brokerage may be chosen for the exclusive marketing lead on pre-sales.
"The homes at New Errol will reflect a life-cycle property, in that we think they'll attract young residents, as well as older who see them as options for transition later into the ALF," he said. "We did a market study that came back very strong. We think we'll be able to sell the units from the low-$300,000s on up."
For the boutique hotel, Wyzisk hasn't decided yet on who would operate it, but expects to bring on a consultant experienced in hotel management and event space.
Financing of the development will include a combination of private equity and debt financing. Wyzisk said his group is still negotiating with interested private investors, and has yet to choose a construction lender.
A conceptual plan was seen by Apopka's Development Review Committee in December. The new MP will be reviewed again by DRC, followed by Apopka's Planning Commission and City Council in the coming months.
If approvals follow, the golf course is expected to close this October, with construction of the new clubhouse and renovated course to run through October 2018.