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The good life in town: $1 million-plus homes coming to WPB core


Banyan Cay said 51 estate homes starting at $1 million will be built on a former golf course

Will faded golf greens find new life as $1 million-plus homes in an old section of West Palm Beach?

The backers behind the Banyan Cay Resort & Golf Club certainly hope so.

The investment group is bringing two types of homes to its redevelopment of an old golf course in the city’s center, at 2300 Presidential Way, near the Palm Beach Outlets mall.

One subdivision will feature 94 luxury homes starting in the mid-$500,000s. And another subdivision will consist of 51 custom estate homes, starting at $1 million.

It’s a big number for a seasoned, in-town neighborhood, but Banyan Cay officials are confident there is demand.

They say they already have interest from people living in western communities looking to come back east, as well as downtown professionals wanting to live in new homes near their offices.

Although there are plenty of new apartments and some townhomes scattered around, “there’s nothing like this anywhere in the city, and so there’s huge demand for it,” said Sam Bauer, president of Banyan Cay Dev LLC.

Building on old golf courses is a sign of the times for the real estate industry.

With prime land scarce, developers are looking to build new homes within cities, rather than far out west. In many cases, golf courses offer the most promising opportunities due to declining interest in the 18-hole sport.

Examples abound: One of three golf courses at the Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth has been sold to Sunrise-based GL Homes for redevelopment into houses and apartments; and the city of Boca Raton is weighing whether GL Homes or Miami-based Lennar Corp. will get to develop the 194-acre city’s golf course on Glades Road, near Florida’s Turnpike.

The 245-acre Banyan Cay property is east of Interstate 95, off of Congress Avenue north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. It is on land formerly known as the President Country Club and is surrounded by a longtime community of houses and condos known as theLands of the President.The club had two golf courses, one of which is being turned into new homes and a resort hotel by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, a Banyan Cay partner.

Bauer said Boca Raton-based SobelCo. will build 94 lots featuring homes priced starting at $550,000 and going up to the $900,000s. The home sites have been rezoned so that the houses will sit in the middle of the lots, instead of zero-lot lines, as had been previously zoned. SobelCo. paid $10 million for the Banyan Cay land.

Plans are to build about five model homes and perhaps five “spec homes” for prospective buyers. The houses should be available by year-end or January. Homes could range in size from 1,500 to 3,500 square feet, he said.

In addition, 51 lots are set aside for custom homes featuring a variety of approved home builders. Sizes could range around 5,000 square feet, but could be larger or smaller, depending on the design.

The list of builders is not available yet but Bauer said they would be “elite, very high-end. To ensure our success, we have to sure the right team is in place.”

Bauer said all 145 homes sit on lots deep enough for a separate ancillary structure, such as a mother-in-law suite.

Homeowners will not be required to join the Banyan Cay club, which is private and will be available to members and hotel guests only. But homeowners can always opt to join Banyan Cay, Bauer said. Club membership prices haven’t yet been set.

This part of town once was a primary office and commercial hub. But it declined along with its neighbor, the Palm Beach Mall, during the past couple of decades.

When the new Palm Beach Outlets opened in February 2014 on the site of the old mall, the Outlets revived interest in the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard district.

Not only is Banyan Cay investing in the area, but other groups are, too.

Houston Astros owner Jim Cranebought one of the Forum office buildings on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to transform it into a hotel that will serve players and guests at the new spring-training center in West Palm Beach, TheBallpark of the Palm Beaches. And Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene built the nearby 548-unit Cameron Estates, featuring luxury apartments, off of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, on the south side of the road.

Banyan Cay came to the city in 2015 when it bought the former President Country Club for $26 million.

The land’s owner was a group led by Hardrives founder George Elmore, who had purchased the country club for only $11 million in 2011 after the club fell into financial trouble. The club had taken out a large loan to redo a golf course and club house, at a time of declining club membership.

After toying with redevelopment and antsy neighbors for a few years, Elmore flipped the property to Banyan Cay two years ago, for a $15 million gain.

Since the acquisition, Banyan Cay’s plans have moved slowly. But the first element finally was nailed down earlier this year when the group announced details of a joint venture with Noble House Hotels & Resorts to develop a resort hotel, new country club and renovated golf course.

Banyan Cay and Noble House raised the project’s profile considerably when they snared golf greatJack Nicklaus to redevelop the remaining golf course, which formerly had been redeveloped by Robert Trent Jones. Under Nicklaus, it will become a Nicklaus Signature Course.

Noble House’s Sean Mullen said the goal is to create a luxury “enclave,” even though the resort is in the middle of the city and near busy roads and highways. “it’s critical to make this resort feel like it’s been there for decades,” Mullen said.

Work already is underway: Construction on the new clubhouse will start in May, Bauer said.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

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