Northeast Joco

July 29, 2014

Developers have eyes on Homestead, Meadowbrook clubs

Longtime institutions hold some of the largest tracts of green space in Prairie Village.

Members of two Prairie Village country clubs may know in the next three months whether they’ll be saying goodbye to their golf and tennis haunts next season.

Developers have eyes for the Homestead and Meadowbrook clubs, both longtime institutions and holders of some of the largest green space left in the city.

Meadowbrook, 9101 Nall, has an 18-hole golf course on its 63-acre property, along with other amenities. The club started out as the Bel-Air in the 1940s, said General Manager Kris Nelson.

The club struggled financially before it was bought in 2010 by VanTrust Real Estate. VanTrust recently notified members that it is working on plans to develop the property and that they should know by September or October whether a development deal has been made that will mean the club is now in its last golf season.

Homestead Country Club, 6510 Mission Road, is fighting for a way to stay open now that its bank has sold the club’s $3.1 million loan to developers Jeffrey Alpert and Melanie Mann of Park Place Partners LLC. A judge will decide after an Aug. 19 hearing whether to confirm the foreclosure and allow the sale of the property to go forward.

Homestead, built in 1952, has 14.4 acres with a pool, clubhouse, banquet facility and 16 tennis courts, but no golf course.

For members at Meadowbrook, it’s been a long, bittersweet farewell. Although VanTrust bought the land four years ago, it promised to keep the previously member-owned club open for at least three years, Nelson said. In that time, the real estate company has done several things to soften the eventuality of development, he said. It paid the club’s losses and most recently, sent a letter out letting golfers know that the club will finish out this season but may not be around for the next.

Jeff Smith, vice president of asset management for VanTrust, said he sent the letter because “there are a lot of rumors flying around.” The company should know more by fall about whether redevelopment is imminent. “But nothing is happening immediately. We just said they should enjoy their summer and don’t worry about it.”

VanTrust will keep the club open as long as possible, he said, but also wanted golfers to know ahead of time whether they should be making other arrangements. Depending on the development deal, the club may be able to stay open into 2015, he said.

Many of the members, though, plan to stay as long as they can, said Nelson. “Quite a few are looking to stick it out to the very end and be here when it closes,” he said.

Although the club recently gained more than 200 new members, he said there are still quite a few who have been members for 30 years or more. One member, 99 years old, was around when it was still the Bel-Air, Nelson said. “It’s a great location in Prairie Village and there’s definitely that attachment,” he said of the members’ fondness for their club.

Membership has been increasing the past few years, but not quite enough to get to the break-even point financially, Nelson said. The club has 250 golf members, but needs 300 to be viable, he said.

No specifics are yet available on the development plan because it is still in the works, said Smith. “We are looking at every option out there,” he said. That could even include some sell-off of the property. “We haven’t really ruled out anything.”

Meanwhile, Colin Gotham, lawyer for Homestead, said the membership is taking every action to keep their club open. That could include finding a friendly buyer, selling off a portion of the property or bankruptcy, he said.

“We’re open and we’re going to stay open,” said Gotham of Evans & Mullinix.

Alpert and Mann bought the Homestead loan from the bank. If the judge allows the foreclosure sale, Alpert said his company would be one of the bidders.

The tentative plan is to build 25 to 30 single-family homes that are consistent with the surrounding neighborhood as far as lot size and density, Alpert said.

Neither of the developers says they’ve heard much from surrounding neighbors about their plans for the clubs. But development of green space has been a hot issue in Prairie Village before. Most recently, the Mission Chateau senior living project took many hours of meeting time as many nearby homeowners objected to development plans. Part of the objection was the elimination of green space on the former Mission Valley Middle School site.

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