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Country clubs seek to lure families

By Alexandra Clough - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Residential golf and country clubs aren’t for the retired set anymore.

Two clubs in Boca Raton are touting completed changes, and plans, to make their clubs as family-friendly as possible. The goal is to reverse the decline in country club membership, which typically relied on older retirees with plenty of time for golf or tennis.

With that demographic fading, clubs have scrambled to rebrand their amenities to appeal to younger home buyers with families. The move seems to be working and now is considered the future for country club communities.

Two years ago, Bocaire Country Club announced it was undergoing a $10.5 million renovation of its pool, clubhouse and other amenities.

But even before the changes were done, the upgrade revelations were enough to boost sales in the community, according to Russell Carlson, Bocaire Country Club chief executive.

Whereas before the community had six children in the 237-home community, it now has about 31. Home sales shot up to 54 during the past two years, compared to four homes the year before the upgrade announcement.

Buyers coming into the community are younger, with a median age of 54, down from 77 years old.

Bocaire Country Club recently finished building a resort-style pool and interior renovations of its clubhouse.

“The resort-style infrastructure always feels like you’re on vacation, with more people milling around the club all day,” Carlson said. “You feel like you’ve gone over to the islands and had a weekend.”

The aquatic enter has lap and leisure pools, plus a spa. There’s a new “Tot Lot,” and family recreation area.

Dave DeMay, vice president of KAST, which handled the club renovations, said Kolter has been busy doing a number of country club renovations. Family, fun and fitness are the new buzzwords.

“It’s hard for people to get away for golf, but they can go to a fitness center. The whole dynamic of (country clubs) has changed,” DeMay said. “As soon as (Bocaire’s) renderings went up, Realtors began selling houses,” he echoed.

Another country club is about to launch a major update. Woodfield Country Club says it will spend $23.75 million on a renovation beginning in 2015.

Unlike Bocaire, Woodfield already is considered a more family-oriented development, with plenty of children living in the 1,300-home community, said Eben Molley, general manager of Woodfield Country Club.

But maintaining Woodfield’s standing takes constant improvement, and members agreed a major renovation was necessary.

“We have a responsibility to the people who live here to remain an attractive place to be and also make sure we are positioned for the future,” Molley said.

So plans are to create new and expanded card rooms, an interior redesign of the main clubhouse and dining areas, plus an overhaul of the fitness, aquatics and child care areas.

Tellingly, a major addition is a new building and play area for the exclusive use of children. The new Kids Korner building will feature a child care area for younger kids, as well as a teen area with pool tables, video games and more.

Woodfield also plans to add a lap pool and a new dining venue.

Carlson said Bocaire isn’t alone in undergoing a major change. Boca Raton’s Polo Club recently underwent a major renovation to create a 50,000-square-foot family resort complex, including a resort-style pool and children’s activity center.

Bocaire Country Club homes range in price from $300,000 to more than $1 million. Woodfield Country Club homes range in price from $300,000 to more than $5 million.

Another CityPlace lawsuit

It’s all lawyers on deck at Decks Fish Market, the West Palm Beach seafood eatery fighting an eviction lawsuit filed by CityPlace. The lawsuit comes just months after the restaurant opened at the shopping and dining destination.

Sound familiar?

Earlier this year, CityPlace and another new restaurant tenant, Tequila Cowboy Bar and Grill, were in a shootout over money, only months after Tequila Cowboy opened. In that lawsuit, CityPlace claiming Tequila Cowboy owed back rent of $166,730. Tequila Cowboy countered by claiming CityPlace failed to pony up money for construction delays caused by CityPlace. The lawsuit quietly settled on February 24.

Now comes the duel with Decks.

A December eviction action by CityPlace Retail LLC alleges KIS Ventures WPB LLC, otherwise known as Decks, owes rent of$111,333 as of Nov. 8.

Decks opened last October in the second-floor space formerly occupied by Greek eatery Taverna Opa. (The company that owns Decks also operates another CityPlace restaurant, Pampas Grille.)

Decks isn’t taking the lawsuit lying down. In a counterclaim filed last month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Decks alleges CityPlace did not fork over $150,000 as part of an inducement in the lease agreement. The lawsuit alleges the money was supposed to have been paid within 30 days following the date of issuance of a building permit.

Decks also says it has paid rent each month.

It’s not unusual for CityPlace and tenants to lob lawsuits at each other.

But it seems to be a trend for the lawsuits to start soon after an eatery opens, due to allegations by CityPlace the tenant isn’t paying rent, and allegations by a tenant that CityPlace has not honored promises for rent inducements or tenant improvement money for construction costs.

A lawyer for Decks could not be reached for comment.

Although CityPlace management usually does not comment on pending litigation, it did speak up on the Decks matter.

“CityPlace is committed to working closely with its tenants to help them succeed, supporting them with marketing assistance, especially for those in their first year, and Decks Fish Market is no exception to that commitment,” according to a written statement by CityPlace management.

“CityPlace and Decks Fish Market are preparing an agreement that will bring resolution and allow Decks Fish Market to continue business in their new space,” the statement said.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law. Contact her at aclough@pbpost.com.

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