An integral piece of Cape Coral’s history lies beneath overgrown greens near the city’s downtown.
The old golf course and its grand clubhouse were once the centerpiece for all that was social in a fledgling community not yet a city.
Since the course’s construction back in 1961, it has been sold, resold, redeveloped and most recently closed. The clubhouse that opened in time to herald in the New Year in 1967 was torn down in July of last year.
Yes, times change and what were once dubbed the “jewels of Cape Coral” — links and a clubhouse city historian Paul Sanborn says were once the most luxurious between Tampa and Miami — are awaiting a new configuration when the property now owned by Florida Gulf Ventures sells.
Meanwhile, opinions are divided.
The School District of Lee County eyed the property as a potential location for multiple schools in one of the Cape’s most populous areas, then withdrew when the proposal became too controversial.
Rezoning to allow a multi-use development to include retail and condominiums was proposed and then withdrawn when neighbors protested that concept as well.
Property owners near the closed facility hope to preserve the acreage as a golf course or, perhaps, a park.
Meanwhile, the once-manicured greens where the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite once battled for the NCAA national championship and Bob Hope teed off have become little more than a vacant legend’s field with grandeur in its past, uncertainty in its future.
Residents and business leaders hoping to have a voice in the historic site’s future will have two opportunities to express their views next week.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini will hold a town hall meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at city hall.
The downtown Community Redevelopment Agency will discuss the issue at its meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the CRA office at 447 Cape Coral Parkway East, Suite 108.
Each meeting will focus on a relatively new concept for what was The Golf Club: that it come into public ownership, possibly under the direction of the CRA.
Ms. Bertolini hopes to accomplish two things with her session: one, to put to rest rampant rumors as farfetched as the site has been sold to developers who want to put in a "Disney World", (It has not); and two, to present the acquisition plan proffered by the CRA.
CRA officials have suggested the possibility that the agency expand its boundaries to include the land off Palm Tree Boulevard, and then purchase the site in conjunction with the Trust For Public Lands. Under that scenario, the Trust would buy the land and then sell it to the CRA, which would pay back the purchase with tax increment funding money, tax dollars paid by property owners within the CRA.
The site could then be kept as a golf course or be rededicated as a park, perhaps with some development component, officials say.
CRA and Trust for Public Lands officials will be present Tuesday night to answer questions; the CRA will take additional input at its meeting Wednesday.
It’s an interesting concept, and we thank Ms. Bertolini and the CRA for bringing this issue forward again.
While the current economic climate has taken this project — and many other potential development matters — off the front burner, it has been simmering nonetheless. The site’s owners and affected property owners deserve to know how the community and city views possible public purchase, private development or some combination of the two.
We urge interested residents to turn out to one or both sessions.
And we urge the city council to consider the input carefully.
The Golf Club site is a prime opportunity as 177-acre parcels in the Cape are rare and one this large in city’s downtown non-existent. As bargain hunters are finding, every cloud of economic gloom has its silver lining and it would not surprise us to see some investor coming forward to line his or her pockets by picking up what could very well be the city’s best bargain.
If you are comfortable with that, tell the city so or do nothing, free enterprise will take its course. If not, turn out Tuesday or Wednesday and let your views be known. Next week may be your best opportunity.
— Breeze editorial