Waterford Village – MLive

MLive | Brian McVicar | December 2, 2020

Developer seeks to transform West Michigan golf course into large-scale housing, office complex

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — An Illinois-based real estate investment
firm has resubmitted plans to transform the Lincoln Country Club property in
Walker into a large-scale housing development, complete with apartments,
single-family homes and office buildings.

Stoneleigh Companies has an agreement in place to purchase
the 100-acre golf course, banquet hall and bowling alley at 3485 Lake Michigan
Drive NW if the city of Walker signs off on the firm’s request to rezone the
property for residential and commercial use, said Stoneleigh President Rick
Cavenaugh.

The company owns and manages multifamily housing communities
in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas.

The firm’s plans call for the construction of a series of
one-story buildings, housing 204 high-end apartments and 68 lots available for
single-family homes. In addition, plans call for preserving 10 acres of the
property along Lake Michigan Drive for commercial office space.

“We’re going to provide quality housing to a market that’s
growing,” said Cavenaugh, whose company is based outside of Chicago in
Barrington, Illinois. “You always need new product in housing. Not everybody
wants to buy a 1970s house or live in a 1982 apartment building, and as Grand
Rapids continues to grow and do well, it needs to have additional housing.”

Monthly rental rates for the apartments, each of which is
expected to have an attached two-car garage, would range from an average of
$1,500 to $2,200, Cavenaugh said.

His firm would sell the 68 lots for single-family homes to
home builders, and would not be involved with the properties moving forward.
The same would be true for the portion of the property slated for commercial
real estate, which would be sold to companies that wish to build offices there,
Cavenaugh said.

The Walker Planning Commission has scheduled a public
hearing on Stoneleigh’s rezoning request for Jan. 27.

The county club property is one of the last remaining large,
open spaces in that portion of Walker. The potential redevelopment of the
property, which would include the demolition of the club’s bowling alley and
banquet hall, would represent a significant change for the neighborhood. The
idea of such a major change has created concern among some residents, said
assistant city manager Frank Wash.

“Anytime that you have established neighborhoods around a
big open space — people like that,” he said. “Simply stated, they like having
that living environment. So, if that open space is going to change, that’s
quite a shock to the system.”

Lincoln County Club is owned by New York-based AMF Bowling
Centers, according to Stoneleigh’s development application filed with the city
of Walker. A representative from AMF Bowling Centers could not be reached to
discuss the project or its decision to sell Lincoln County Club.

Cavenaugh declined to say for how much his firm plans to
purchase the property. A document advertising the property, from the real
estate firm CBRE Grand Rapids, listed the asking price as $5.1 million.

Stoneleigh’s new plans mark the second time the firm has
submitted documents to redevelop the property with the city of Walker.

The firm submitted plans to the city earlier this year,
prior to the coronavirus pandemic. But it was forced to pull those plans back
because its contract to purchase the property from AMF Bowling Centers, the
country club’s owner, was not finalized, Cavenaugh said.

“We had thought that the contract would be signed prior to
that point,” he said. “It wasn’t, and we probably got a little bit ahead of
ourselves in submitting it and getting the feedback. So, we had to pull the
site plan that we had submitted.”

The pandemic delayed his firm from resubmitting plans until
September, Cavenaugh said. Following the resubmittal, a meeting with
neighborhood residents was held online, during which participants provided
feedback on the plan.

Cavenaugh said he has tried to make the development
palatable to residents who are concerned about noise, traffic and other changes
to the area. He said the city’s master plan calls for residential density that
would allow up to 462 housing units, and that his proposal includes 227 housing
units.

Designs have also been altered to provide more green space
between the apartment buildings and neighborhood properties.

In addition, revised plans also include an option to remove
a road connecting the development to Maplerow Avenue NW. The street runs
through a residential community, and neighbors were worried about additional
traffic, said Wash, the assistant city manager.

“I don’t think it’s a bad plan,” he said. “It’s certainly at
least from a preliminary standpoint consistent with the new master plan. But
the devil’s going to be in the details.”

Wash said the planning commission, when examining the
rezoning request, will look at features such as the amount of space between the
development and neighboring homes, open space preservation and natural feature
preservation.

Cavenaugh said building the apartments would cost an
estimated $35 million. If the project receives the necessary approvals in a
timely fashion, he said construction on the apartments could be completed by
fall 2022 or spring 2023.