The price simply wasn’t right for the developers Bill Place chose to buy and turn the Pebble Creek Golf Club (PCGC) into new homes, so the PCGC owner is turning to a new development group.
13th Floor Homes, a Miami-based investment management firm, was chosen late last year from a group of bidders interested in razing New Tampa’s oldest golf course in favor of a new housing development. Following months of inspections and meetings with homeowners, 13th Floor has withdrawn its interest.
“They got to end of the inspection period and wanted to change a lot of the terms,” says Place. “We didn’t want to change the terms.”
Place and his wife Su Lee own Ace Golf, which bought PCGC in 2005.
While the exit of 13th Floor from the process was a disappointment for Place, he said there were seven developers that had originally submitted bids to purchase the 6,436-yard golf course, which opened in 1967. So, it’s on to the next group of potential suitors, which Place would only describe as “major homebuilders.”
Despite the lack of a sale to 13th Floor, he says the months of examination and feedback have helped guide what will be acceptable in the future.
Place also said that while the zoning exists to build 600 homes on the 149 acres he is selling, he wouldn’t even consider allowing that much development.
And, according to what he learned from focus groups organized by Pebble Creek’s two homeowners associations, there also is opposition to multi-family units and homes being built in close proximity to existing homes in the community.
“We’ve excluded all that from this next round,” Place says. “We’ll tell the next developer that these are things that have already been worked on with the homeowners and that we don’t want to backtrack.”
Place said that he didn’t originally choose the highest bidder because they wanted to come in and build rental homes. “We don’t feel that would be appropriate for the community,” he says.
Although there is a large contingent of residents opposed to the sale of the golf club (and what they fear will be a resulting loss of wildlife and green space) for any reason, the inspection period, which included lots of meetings with Pebble Creek’s HOAs and focus groups, was not acrimonious.
“Not at all, surprisingly so,” said 13th Floor corporate counsel Dan Daley. “The community, particularly the HOA members and leadership, understood the reality of the situation.”
That reality, Place says, is that the golf course is losing money — he has said that 2018 revenues were down 33 percent, and profits were down 50 percent — as the golf course industry struggles nationwide.
The club currently has only 20 members, and competition is stiff. In New Tampa alone, Pebble Creek has to compete with private country clubs at Hunter’s Green and Tampa Palms, as well the recently revamped Heritage Isles on Cross Creek Blvd.
Place even said that since Ace Golf bought Plantation Palms Golf Club — which had been closed for two years and is located only 10 miles from PCGC (in Land O’Lakes) — in 2015, with the hopes of reviving it, Plantation Palms also has drawn additional business away from Pebble Creek.
While the sale of PCGC remains imminent, Place says that it currently is still business as usual. Mulligan’s Pub continues to be a popular hangout, and the club itself is booking weddings and other events through the end of next year.
“It’s physically impossible to get through the zoning and public input before then,” he says, “so we are still booking events through 2020. The one thing I have refused to do is operate like a business that is going out of business.”