The new developers of the Walden Lake Golf Course are hoping to ascertain what the majority of residents want out of the property.
It seems the long wait is finally over.
Walden Lake, LLC purchased the approximately 425 acres of the Walden Lake Golf Course at the end of last month. The city of Plant City has already received approximately $30,000 from Today’s Bank for its lien against the property after city crews had to come in and mow the entire property.
The developers presented their intentions for the property Saturday in a meeting with residents.
“We’ve been through this before, we’ve dealt with sensitive communities in the past as developers,” Carmine Zayoun, co-partner of Walden Lake, LLC said.
The three men that comprise Walden Lake, LLC have joint experience developing hotel properties, mutli-family and residential communities, renewable energy, retail and office space and more. Zayoun alone has overseen the purchase and sale of more than $400 million in real estate assets throughout the State of Florida since relocating to the state in 2013 from Canada for the Heafey Group.
When the newly formed Walden Lake, LLC began looking at the property the trio was immediately asked what the plan was for the property. Zayoun said that was up to the residents.
“We have a wide variety of background and experiences and we take a different approach,” Zayoun said. “We’re a younger group of guys, we understand that going into a community that’s existed for 30 or 40 years is a sensitive thing to do. We’re not the type of developers that, everyone’s like, ‘What’s your plan? What’s your plan?’ So we came in and we met a while back, around a month ago before we bought the property. We came in and were asked, ‘What’s your plan?’ and we said we don’t have one. We told everyone we’re going to do this in reverse. You’re going to help us develop a plan. It’s not typical of developers to do that.”
Zayoun said they’re not going to make everyone 100 percent happy, but they’ll do the best they can to get as much input as possible.
That communication between the developers and the community seems to be underway. Bob Norton, member of the Walden Lake Community Association Board of Directors, said the developers have been in touch with the president and other members of the board. Norton said everything is very transparent and nothing is being done behind closed doors.
The company had a $45,000 survey completed of the property and presented the results to the board. Zayoun said they want to meet with the city in the upcoming weeks to figure out details of what they need. Then they want feedback from the committee and board and once they go to the drawing board they’ll need 30 to 60 days to come up with a concept for the property.
Concerns of flooding, ecological impacts, stormwater management, traffic and other items were brought up and Zayoun said they would hire the right professionals that the city of Plant City would be in agreement with to address those concerns. They also agreed to share all of the future studies with the board members and committee so they could have another engineer of their choice if they choose confirm they were done properly.
Zayoun repeatedly said the future of the development lies in the hands of the residents. All of the residents, not just the vocal majority. The company plans to distribute a survey to all of the approximately 2,000 homes in the Walden Lake community. If the majority, not just say 500 homes, make it clear they want a golf course Walden Lake, LLC will oblige and “find a way to work out that golf element.”
However, if the majority comes back and says they would prefer a green space or a community center or something else that will be the focus of the group. By giving residents something they want the company hopes to then be able to do what they want with a cooperative partnership.
“I’m giving the power to the residents,” Zayoun said. “You guys have got to help us out. We’ll do what the majority wants and you guys have to help us do what we want, but it will be a win-win for both of us.”
While he understands this is a golf community he warned that golf is on the decline in the states. He joked his company’s golf course in Canada sees its most successful months when the course is closed. If the Walden Lake community is willing to handle the brunt of financing the operations of the course, Zayoun isn’t necessarily opposed to building one. But the decision is not one to take lightly. For example, HOA fees may need to rise to cover operation costs. He recommends residents do their research before they agree to take on that responsibility.
Once feedback is turned in and analyzed from the community the developers will get a plan together and start meeting with the city to get traffic analysis and ecological and storm water studies completed. Once those are done there is a high chance there will need to be at least minor tweaks to the plan drafted from the developers at the start.
One thing the LLC is already “very keen on doing” in the center on Clubhouse Drive is to recreate a property Zayoun built in Orlando called Majestic at Baldwin Park. The three story multifamily development has leasable high end apartments above a bottom floor of retail spaces. Those would be boutique size businesses like a coffee shop, dog groomer, barber or restaurant that “really activates the neighborhood.”
In looking at the demographics between Orlando and this community Zayoun said they found striking similarities. They’re goal is to recreate a similar structure here to act as a center for the community.
They would want to do a study to find out if a hotel would be viable before they started considering that as an option. They want to “keep the community together,” so with property that abuts areas with million dollar homes they would want to develop properties that flow naturally with their neighbors. Condos would go by similar style homes and high-end luxury homes would go by matching units.
He was still vague on the specifics of that aspect of the plan, but said everything would flow and match the already existing communities.
We’re looking at approximately six months before they are ready to start presenting to the city. The company has already hired someone to care for the property and tackle cleaning up areas left in disarray, like the pool.
The current problem is there are only a handful of volunteers with the advisory council ready to go door to door to get that initial survey of residents completed. They need help to tackle hitting the 2,000 homes. Zayoun said they will rent iPads out and help develop the survey and then put together a fund, donating money to cover the cost of the time of the volunteers that will go out and survey these homes. They’re going to help put a team of volunteers together. They’re searching for unbiased residents so they will meet them before they’re sent out.
“The reality is yes, we are a for-profit company, we are going to build,” Zayoun said. “Are we willing to make less money to accommodate you guys? Absolutely. We’re not all about making the maximum profit possible… We want to take a route that’s fair to everyone, gives everyone a voice.”