January 25, 2019

Developers Closely Watch Germantown’s Plans for Golf Course

The Daily Memphian

By Tom Bailey

January 25, 2019

A cyclist cruises down the entry drive to Germantown Country Club during his routine 10 mile route. Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the golf course frequently bike or walk through the courses golf cart paths. (Houston Cofield/Daily Memphian)

The venerable Boyle Investment Co. is among the development companies closely watching what Germantown and the property owners want to do with Germantown Country Club’s 180 acres.

So is Kevin Hyneman Cos., which has transitioned over the years from building starter homes by the hundreds to subdivisions of $1 million-plus houses around Nashville.

Some developers are watching to see if club members might buy and maintain the golf course, or to see if the city will purchase it for a public park.

If those things don’t happen, developers will watch to see which real estate broker markets the property and what the timetable and process for a sale would be.

And even if the property is offered for housing, some developers will take Germantown’s temperature before diving in. The suburb has proven to be difficult – or cautious – toward developers who propose new things, whether they be apartments, high density or in this possible scenario, changing a golf course into high-end housing.

“I would pursue this with extreme caution,’’ Hyneman said Friday. “Right now, Germantown is a very difficult environment to be a developer out there. … The environment there is volatile and emotions are so high, it will run some people off that normally have an interest.”

Boyle Investment Co.

Whether the 86-year-old company becomes involved in any redevelopment or not, Boyle has a point of view that no other firm could possibly have: Boyle developed Germantown Country Club (then called Farmington Country Club) and the surrounding residential neighborhoods from agricultural fields a half-century ago.

“It was the first thing I worked on in 1968 or ’69 when I came to work at Boyle,’’ said Russell Bloodworth Jr., now an executive vice president. “I worked on one of the golf pavilions.”

The family trust that owns the 18-hole course with clubhouse, tennis courts and a swimming pool announced the club will close Feb. 28.

Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo has said the city will study the possibility of buying the property for a park. A parks master plan steering committee will meet about the issue Feb. 9 to make a recommendation.

TOM BAILEY: Germantown starts study of possible golf course purchase

Otherwise, Palazzolo has said he would oppose the property being rezoned for commercial uses. The site has underlying, residential zoning for lots that are at least 15,000 square feet.

Boyle Investment Co. has a large portfolio of high-end commercial, office and residential developments.

“We are certainly interested in particularly larger parcels that are well-located,” Bloodworth said. “We would be interested if that was in the best interest of Germantown and the surrounding residents; that would be key.”

Boyle has been “watching the situation to some degree” since club members were informed of plans to close.

“If it did not become a park or continue as a golf enterprise and was to be developed for a different use, I would assume the use would need to be residential,” Bloodworth said. “And the mayor was clear that was his perspective as well.”

The Germantown Country Club is under new management with possible development plans for the golf course which may include a new neighborhood community. (Houston Cofield/Daily Memphian)” src=”https://www.boyle.com/api/image/5503/740″ border=”0″ data-largeheight=”2182″ data-largewidth=”3000″ data-large=”/api/image/5503/960″>

The Germantown Country Club is under new management with possible development plans for the golf course which may include a new neighborhood community. (Houston Cofield/Daily Memphian)

The property bounded by Farmington to the south, Kimbrough to the west and Wolf River Boulevard to the north has rolling hills and mature pines and oaks.

“It could be terrific” for development of new houses, Bloodworth said. “It does have some challenges because you have got to be really thoughtful about all the adjoining homeowners if you did do any development.

“I’ll be happy if it remains open space and will be happy if it’s well and beautifully developed, but won’t be if it’s not.”

Bloodworth has weighty credentials. A graduate of the University of Virginia who studied environmental design at Yale, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Lambda Alpha real estate fraternity in 2010, was inducted into the Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame by the Memphis Area Association of Realtors in 2009, and is a past president of the Memphis chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

He describes the theme running through Boyle’s residential developments as “great attention to the natural landscape and the environment.’’ The company also imposes some architectural control that raises the quality of the house designs in its developments, he said.

“All of those things need to be employed no matter who does it at the Farmington community, if the city mothers and fathers decide they are open to actually having it developed.”

Among the leafy, residential developments Bloodworth and Boyle have built over the decades are: additions to River Oaks such as The Cloisters and Gardens of River Oaks, and Green Shadows and Blue Heron, all in East Memphis; Schilling Farms and Spring Creek Ranch in Collierville; and The Pinnacle and Allelon, both in Germantown.

A residential redevelopment at the golf course could be special, Bloodworth indicated.

“The main thing that would make a wonderful development to me is the small pockets … small clusters of houses and open space where you’d need buffering between existing homes and what is now the course.”

Kevin Hyneman Cos.

Hyneman has done the rough assessment and math, which shows a residential redevelopment of the golf course could work financially, he said.

Only about half the acreage is buildable because of flood-prone areas, meaning about 150 houses could be built, he estimated.

Like Bloodworth, Hyneman said he would be happy if club members bought and kept the course open or the city bought it for a park.

“It’s an emotional piece of property for the city, citizens and a lot of people that hate to see it be developed for residential development. I think it’s highly likely the city will be able to put together a deal,” Hyneman said.

But if that doesn’t happen, “we’d be bidding on the property,” he said.

It’s challenging these days for a private golf course to succeed. Owners of the semi-private Stonebridge Golf Course have defaulted on their loan and the Lakeland course is scheduled to be sold to the highest bidder on the courthouse steps next month. Colonial Country Club has closed one of its two courses with plans to redevelop it.

“It’s just hard for a club to make money these days,” Hyneman said. “You’ve got deferred maintenance, you can’t continue to increase the dues and maintain the club.”

Hyneman’s rough calculations for redeveloping the site include estimating the cost for asphalt, curbs and gutters, grading, drainage work, and amenities like walls and a possible pool.

To absorb the costs and make a profit, he said, “you’re looking at million-dollar houses.”

Build out would likely take 10 years, he said. “You’ve got to put forth the time and effort to manage the elevations (exterior appearance of the houses), the streetscape, and maintain. It’s not something you develop, sell the lots and walk away.”