LAKELAND — One of Lakeland’s oldest golf courses, Wedgewood Golf Course, has been sold to possibly make way for a 1,400-home development.
Mulberry-based SJD Development LLC purchased the 117-acre property for $4.5 million in December from Kanes Golf of Florida, owned by Sun Shin, according to records from the Polk County Property Appraiser’s Office.
Former Polk County Commissioner John Hall and Jonathan Hall, a partner with Ronin Assets, filed a request with the City of Lakeland on April 1 to have nearly 111 acres rezoned under a Planned Unit Development for a residential community. The father-son duo hope to mix single-family homes, townhouses, multifamily apartments and a 150-bed assisted living facility in a project dubbed “Gibson Trails.”
“Many golf courses are no longer profitable to operate as golf courses and in many cases, such as Wedgewood, they are actually losing money. Due to changing market conditions, a great number of golf courses are being repurposes into residential communities,” the developer says in the application.
The request is scheduled to go before Lakeland’s Planning and Zoning Board on May 17. If approved, the course could become home to 16 single-family homes, 204 townhomes and 1,028 multifamily units arrayed in three- and four-story buildings.
“We’re looking at the development from so many angles and with so many different people in mind,” Jonathan Hall told The Ledger. “We really want to do a good job.”
Jonathan Hall said he and Scott House, founder and president of SJD Development LLC, plan to honor the property’s unique history while addressing longstanding local issues with construction.
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Wedgewood was originally known as William L. Hutcheson Golf Course when it was built in January 1931. The original18-hole, par 73 course was the second to open in Lakeland after Cleveland Heights Golf Course, which is owned by the city.
Hutcheson was president of the carpenters union for 36 years starting in 1915. The union, for carpenters age 65 and older with 30 years’ membership, was one of the largest building-trade unions in the nation.
The Carpenters Home Cemetery still remains on the southeast side of the golf course behind the former 10th hole.
The property has changed hands several times over the years. Its name was changed to Wedgewood Golf Club in 1983 after undergoing a redesign by Lakeland course architect Ron Garl. The course has attracted famous golfers including Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead.
In 2001, the course came under the ownership of Shin, who has been a staunch defender of Wedgewood’s history and heritage. Shin fought against a proposed east-west connecter road just north of I-4 that would have cut directly across the length of the uphill Par-4 third hole.
That road, Lakeland Park Drive, would now be built under the development plan, connecting Socrum Loop Road on the east to U.S. 98 in the west, running along I-4.
As the golf course fell on hard times, Jonathan Hall said it’s been a goal of reimagining the course as a residential community that blends in with the existing homes around it.
“We’ve spent a lot of time massaging the plan to where we think it will be an enhancement to the neighborhood,” he said. “People have been used to seeing a golf course for a very long time. We’re sensitive to that.”
The proposed first phase of Gibson Trails would see construction of 572 multifamily units, a little more than half of the 1,028 proposed. The apartments would be scattered across 23 buildings at three- and four-stories in height. The master plan places the majority of the multifamily housing to the east of Carpenters Way, with a small grouping of about 140 units on the western most tip of the property.
Hall said the multifamily housing will come in a mix of sizes from studios to three-bedroom apartments. At this time, he said more than half the units will be two-bedrooms or more.
“This is housing for working professionals, young professionals,” he said. “People who don’t necessarily want to buy or own a single-family home who are moving into the area.”
The 10-page Wedgewood Vision Document drafted by Lakeland-based Kimley Horn also outlines the four sites where 204 townhouses could be built. Three of these sites are clustered at the southwest corner of the property where Carpenters Way will connect with Lakeland Park Drive. Jonathan Hill said the townhouses will likely start at prices in the mid-$300,000s.
“People are worried we will be building a cheap product,” he said. “On the contrary, we plan on building very nice product with luxury apartments as well.”
The drafted plans propose that 16 single-family homes could be constructed on a northeast parcel, close to Heatherpoint Drive. These homes would be a maximum of two-stories high and offer a minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet, or about 0.16 of an acre. The maximum residential density proposed is five units per acre.
A vacant parcel along Wedgewood Estates Boulevard would be set aside for the future construction of a roughly 150-bed assisted living facility.
Hall said while a total of 1,398 new dwellings may seem high, a large portion of the golf course is already zoned Residential High. This would allow a density of 12 to 75 units per acre over much of the site. His visioning plan, overall, works out to an average of 11.95 units per acre when fully constructed.
“We’re coming in, but we’re not simply getting as much density as we can,” Jonathan Hall said. “We’re looking at how do we construct the right balance for this and still provide amenities to the surrounding community.”
Developers plan to ‘highlight outdoors’
The developer said it’s important to him and his partners that the future development of Wedgewood incorporate elements from the golf course’s history.
Golfers familiar with the golf cart path will find that it’s been pulled into the community’s drafted development plan as a 12-foot wide, multi-use path that Hall said he likes to think of as a “walking park.”
“Especially with COVID, people have been spending a lot more time outdoors. I wanted something to help pull the community together with a walking park,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to highlight the outdoors.”
The multi-use path will closely follow the existing golf cart path around the perimeter of the development, according to Hall, with two interior sections close to Carpenters Way.
Wedgewood’s iconic Spanish-styled arch in front of the clubhouse will be preserved and maintained throughout construction, Hall said.
“It’s historical, and we’re excited as we want it to be part of the community,” he said.
Hall said the developers will be sensitive to the Carpenters Home cemetery, established in 1929. It is the final resting place of approximately 1,290 people, according to state records.
Jonathan Hall said the proposal is to construct a small parking lot near the cemetery to allow family and friends easier access to come pay their respects. He was careful to note the cemetery was not purchased or owned by SJD Development.
Will traffic be an issue?
One the key issues that city staff and planners have taken on in early review of the development plans submitted for Wedgewood is traffic. Chuck Barmby, Lakeland’s transportation and development review manager, stated the area would need a major traffic review including a “operational analysis for Carpenters Way.”
Hall said the developers are aware of some local issues with the road network and plan to provide long-awaited connectivity to local roadways. Among these will be the extension of Lakeland Park Drive, currently underway, that should provide easier east-west transit north of I-4. This is something the city tried to do years ago, but shifting the golf course’s holes and layout proved too challenging.
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The plans also proposed the realignment of Wedgewood Estates Boulevard by dropping the roadway further to the south. Hall said anyone who’s driven the area is aware how the boulevard’s western edge creates an awkward intersection with Carpenters Way and Heatherpoint Drive.
The developer has suggested a roundabout be installed at the revised intersection, allowing drivers to easily go between Carpenters Way, Wedgewood Estates Boulevard and Heatherpoint Drive.
The development would have three main entrances designed to help traffic flow in the surrounding communities. These would be off Carpenters Way and Wedgewood Estates Boulevard in the north, and from Carpenters Way onto the Lakeland Park Drive connector on the south end of the complex.
Hall said that the developer is in the process of finalizing details on a May 13 community meeting with mailers being sent to nearby homeowners in the next few days. He expects this will be the second of many meetings as the project moves forward, as the first was with heads of the area’s existing homeowners associations.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Lakeland’s Wedgewood Golf Course may soon become residential community