LAKELAND – One of Lakeland’s oldest golf courses, Wedgewood Golf Course, has been sold to eventually 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 Assessor’s Office. .
Former Polk County Commissioner John Hall and Ronin Assets partner Jonathan Hall filed a request with the City of Lakeland on April 1 to have nearly 111 acres rezoned as part of a development of units planned for a residential community. The father-son duo hope to mix single-family homes, townhouses, multi-family 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, many of golf courses are being repurposed into residential communities,” the developer says in the app.
The application is due to the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board on May 17. If approved, the land could house 16 single-family homes, 204 townhouses and 1,028 multi-family units in three- and four-story buildings.
“We look at 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 long-standing local construction issues.
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Wedgewood was originally known as the William L. Hutcheson Golf Course when it was built in January 1931. The original 18-hole, par-73 course was the second to open in Lakeland after the golf course Cleveland Heights, which is owned by the city.
Hutcheson served as president of the carpenters’ union for 36 years from 1915. The union, for carpenters aged 65 and over with 30 years of membership, was one of the largest construction unions in the country.
The Carpenters Home Cemetery still remains on the southeast side of the golf course behind the old 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 became the property of Shin, who has been a strong supporter of Wedgewood’s history and heritage. Shin fought against a proposed east-west connecting route just north of I-4 that would have cut directly the full length of the uphill Par-4 third hole.
This road, Lakeland Park Drive, would now be built as part of the development plan, connecting Socrum Loop Road in the east to US 98 in the west, paralleling I-4.
Change of hours
As the golf course went through tough times, Jonathan Hall said the goal was to reinvent the course as a residential community that blends in with the existing homes that surround it.
“We spent a lot of time massaging the plan where we think it will be an improvement in the neighborhood,” he said. “People have been used to seeing a golf course for a very long time. We are sensitive to it.”
The proposed first phase of Gibson Trails would see the construction of 572 multi-family units, just over half of the 1,028 proposed. The apartments would be scattered across 23 three- and four-story buildings. The master plan places the majority of multi-family dwellings east of Carpenters Way, with a small cluster of approximately 140 units at the western end of the property.
Hall said multi-family units will come in a mix of sizes from studios to three-bedroom apartments. Currently, he said more than half of the units will be two or more bedrooms.
“This is housing for working professionals, young professionals,” he said. “People who don’t necessarily want to buy or own a single family home moving to the area.”
The 10-page Wedgewood Vision document authored 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 to Lakeland Park Drive. Jonathan Hill said townhouses will likely start at prices around $300,000.
“People are worried that we’re building a cheap product,” he said. “On the contrary, we plan to also build very beautiful products with luxury apartments.”
Drafted plans propose that 16 single-family homes could be built on a northeast parcel, close to Heatherpoint Drive. These homes would be up to two stories tall and offer a minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet, or approximately 0.16 acres. The proposed maximum residential density is five units per acre.
A vacant lot along Wedgewood Estates Boulevard would be set aside for the future construction of an assisted living facility with approximately 150 beds.
Hall said while a total of 1,398 new homes may seem high, much of the golf course is already zoned high residential. This would allow for a density of 12 to 75 units per acre over much of the site. Its vision plan, overall, averages 11.95 units per acre when fully constructed.
“We’re coming in, but we’re just not getting as much density as possible,” Jonathan Hall said. “We’re looking at how to build the right balance for this while providing amenities to the surrounding community.”
Developers plan to “highlight the exterior”
The developer said it was important to him and his partners that the future development of Wedgewood incorporates elements of the golf course’s history.
Golfers familiar with the golf cart trail will find that it has been incorporated into the community development plan as a 12-foot-wide multi-use trail that Hall said he likes to think of as a “walking park.” .
“Especially with COVID, people are spending a lot more time outdoors. I wanted something to help bring the community together with a walking park,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to enhance the exterior.”
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 near Carpenters Way.
Wedgewood’s signature Spanish-style arch in front of the clubhouse will be preserved and maintained throughout construction, Hall said.
“It’s historic and we’re thrilled because we want him to be part of the community,” he said.
Hall said developers will be sensitive to the Carpenters Home Cemetery, established in 1929. It is the final resting place of about 1,290 people, according to state records.
Jonathan Hall said the proposal is to build a small car park near the cemetery to make it easier for family and friends to come and pay their respects. He was careful to note that the cemetery was neither purchased nor owned by SJD Development.
Will traffic be a problem?
One of the main issues that City staff and planners considered when preliminary reviewing submitted development plans for Wedgewood is traffic. Chuck Barmby, Lakeland’s transportation and development review manager, said the area would need a major traffic review, including an “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 roads. Among these will be the Lakeland Park Drive extension, currently underway, which is expected to facilitate east-west transit north of I-4. This is something the city tried to do years ago, but moving the holes and layout of the golf course proved too difficult.
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The plans also proposed the realignment of Wedgewood Estates Boulevard dropping the roadway further south. Hall said anyone who has driven in the area knows how the western edge of the boulevard creates an awkward intersection with Carpenters Way and Heatherpoint Drive.
The developer suggested that a roundabout be installed at the revised intersection, allowing drivers to move easily between Carpenters Way, Wedgewood Estates Boulevard and Heatherpoint Drive.
The development would have three main entrances designed to facilitate circulation in the surrounding communities. These would be located north of Carpenters Way and Wedgewood Estates Boulevard, and Carpenters Way at the Lakeland Park Drive connector at the southern end of the complex.
Hall said the developer is finalizing details for a community meeting on May 13 with shippers sent to nearby owners in the coming days. He expects this to be the second of many meetings as the project progresses, as the first was with the heads of existing homeowners associations in the area.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.