DELRAY BEACH — Closing in on its 100-year anniversary, Delray Beach’s public golf course is in “desperate need for help” and drastically requires a face-lift, city commissioners say.
Renovating it, though, carries a hefty price tag — to the tune of $10 million to fix a variety of issues plaguing the 18-hole course on Atlantic Avenue just west of Interstate 95.
Because of that steep price, Delray Beach is looking for a developer to fund the repairs. In exchange, the city is willing to give up 6 acres of the course bordering Atlantic Avenue for a future mixed-use development.
The Delray Beach Golf Club “is a great asset. People come to our town expecting to be able to go out on a municipal course,” Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “But we don’t want to see it bleeding the tax dollars from necessary items like safety and health.
“It’s a question of balance. Do we continue to use millions of taxpayer dollars annually and make a huge investment to restore this asset, or do we have a way to partner with a developer that can give us something else and cover that tax burden?”
With 98% of the city already built out, that much land would likely be a prime target for developers because of its location along Atlantic Avenue and proximity to I-95.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved hiring an outside real estate firm, CBRE, to begin soliciting bids for the land. CBRE, which is being paid a monthly retainer of $7,500, said during Tuesday’s commission meeting it will use its global network to push out the request for proposal to “more than 25,000 investors and developers around the world.”
A CBRE official said it would likely take seven to nine months to generate proposals and bring them before the city.
Delray Beach officials aren’t giving any specifics for what they want built on the land in order to cultivate more creativity from potential developers. That means anything is on the table for the 6 acres, including apartments, restaurants, condos, retail, office space and hotels.
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 in August 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.
“I’d say we are in desperate need of help,” Commissioner Shirley Johnson said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The city purchased the land in 1923 and opened a nine-hole course three years later.
The course later expanded to 18 holes in 1950.
Petrolia said the city has been contemplating repairs for the past decade, but budgetary issues have gotten in the way.
“I think we need to make this a destination course and even more so now with all the courses that have been closed,” Petrolia said. “As a result of that we can really be a destination, prime course where people are really wanting to play.
“We’re at that crossroads where we can make it really unique. We should make it one of the best assets in our city. This is not just ‘put some sod in and call it a day.’ I’d like to see us really rock it out of the park so there’s a ‘wow’ factor.”
Across the United States, many courses have shuttered over the years, often with developers turning those massive parcels into homes. In the past 15 years, more than 1,600 18-hole courses have closed, according to the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter.
In Delray Beach, a vacant golf course is being transformed into a 79-home gated community less than two miles west along Atlantic Avenue.