Future of Prairie Village’s Homestead Country Club is in jeopardy

03/06/2014 4:50 PM

03/07/2014 5:07 PM

A plan by developers to foreclose on a $3.1 million loan owed by Homestead Country Club in Prairie Village has the 1950s vintage tennis and swimming facility scrambling to survive.

The developers, Jeff Alpert and Melanie Mann, want to close the club and redevelop the property as an upscale subdivision. The existing zoning would allow 25 to 30 houses to be built there.

The club at 6510 Mission Road was established on 14.4 acres in 1952 by J.C. Nichols. Its leaders now are strongly considering filing for bankruptcy to buy time to pursue their own preservation plan.

They want to find a friendly buyer who will let them continue operating on the 9 acres at the back of the site where the clubhouse, pool and tennis courts are and build homes on its 5-acre lawn closer to Mission Road.

“We’re exploring our options to find a point where we can rightsize and continue to function as a viable club,” Brian Collins, general manager of Homestead, said Thursday.

Homestead is the latest example of the struggles of older suburban clubs built when their surrounding neighborhoods were booming in the 1950s and 1960s. But in recent years membership has fallen. Meadowbrook, also in Prairie Village, has experienced difficulties, and Brookridge in Overland Park found a new buyer in 2010.

Membership at Homestead has dropped 36 percent in the past decade, from about 500 in the late 1990s to 320 today. The club’s facilities include an Olympic-size pool, 16 outdoor tennis courts — four of them covered during the winter for year-round play — and a clubhouse with a restaurant, bar and banquet room.

Homestead officials said they had been working with Valley View Bank to refinance a loan made in 2007 and were seeking a friendly buyer willing to pursue their downsizing plan. In mid-November, however, the bank abruptly sold the $3.1 million loan note to Alpert and Mann.

A spokeswoman for Valley View declined to comment.

The developers who bought the loan say they have no interest in dividing the property and leaving the club intact and have begun foreclosure proceedings.

“We want one of two things. Either pay off the note or if they can’t pay us, we’d want the opportunity to take the property and develop it,” Alpert said. “We weren’t comfortable with marketing just part of the site.”

The Homestead site is in one of the more desirable residential areas of northeast Johnson County, next to Mission Hills. The adjoining Prairie Village neighborhood has been the location of numerous teardowns, with people paying $200,000 or more for houses they demolish and replace with homes valued at $650,000 or more.

“Our intent would be to develop it consistent with the surrounding neighborhood, single-family lots and higher-quality houses,” Alpert said. “We want to be good neighbors.”

Alpert and Mann’s best-known development is Park Place in Leawood, a pedestrian-friendly blend of offices, retail and apartments at 117th Street and Nall Avenue.

The attorney representing Homestead, Colin Gotham of Evans & Mullinix, said he was confident the club would be able to stave off closing. Gotham said bankruptcy was an option, which would allow the club to reorganize its operation under court supervision.

“The club is not shutting down. It’s going to survive,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that can be overcome legally. If they have to sell a part of it to be financially viable, they will.”

The club needs to respond to the foreclosure proceeding by March 21.

Prairie Village city officials say they’re aware that Homestead is trying to downsize to stay financially viable, but no position has been taken on the issue.

The club has been a popular gathering and recreational place for generations of members, Collins said, and plans to continue to be. He emphasized that the club would continue to operate as normal.

“It’s an institution in Prairie Village, and it’s been around for more than 60 years,” he said. “When you talk to people in the area, nine out of 10 times they’ve had an experience there. Everybody has been to this place.”

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