After nearly 100 years, the Minnetonka Country Club has closed and is slated to become a 121-home subdivision — the Twin Cities’ latest golf course-turned-housing development.
The nearly 117-acre golf course and country club near Lake Minnetonka is the single largest parcel of property in Shorewood. Last week, developer Mattamy Homes presented the preliminary concept plans for the high-end homes to the city’s Planning Commission — the first public step in the lengthy process for the project.
The country club, which opened in 1916 and survived two clubhouse fires over its 98 years, boasted of being one of the oldest continuously active golf courses in Minnesota. But in October, owner Bill Witrak abruptly announced its closing to club members, citing increased costs of keeping up the clubhouse facilities and the 18-hole golf course in light of decreasing revenue.
“Initially, it was a huge surprise,” Shorewood Planning Director Brad Nielsen said of the club sale. “I don’t imagine we’re going to have anything of this size [again].”
The country club closed Dec. 31 — one of several Twin Cities golf courses to be turned into sprawling suburban housing in recent years. According to the Minnesota Golf Association, 18 golf courses across the state, including Shorewood’s, have closed since the last new course opened in the Twin Cities in 2006.
Last year, the owner of the 18-hole Lakeview Golf Course in Orono closed it, and 46 homes are expected to be built. Nearby, 61 homes are under construction at the former nine-hole Red Oak Golf Course in Minnetrista, and 156 homes are expected on Plymouth’s former 18-hole Elm Creek Golf Course.
And in Blaine, the nine-hole Katehaven Golf Course is being transformed into 70 luxury townhouses nestled around three ponds and a tributary of Rice Creek. The twin homes range in size from 2,600 to 3,000 square feet — designed for empty nesters with more emphasis on large communal living spaces than the number of bedrooms.
Fitting in the community
In Shorewood, the golf course hosted golfers, weddings and other events. Golf teams like nearby Minnetonka High School, which used the course for golf matches and practices, will need to go elsewhere next spring.
The closing sparked some opposition from nearby residents in the small 7,300-resident suburb and longtime club members, who tried to come up with a way to save the country club from shutting down.
But Steve Logan, the Minnesota division president of Canadian-based Mattamy Homes, said the company is working with neighbors and the city to make sure the development fits in. As many trees as possible will be preserved to create a buffer between the development and existing neighborhoods, leaving about half of the 116.9 acres undeveloped for wetlands, trails and public or private open spaces.
“We want to respect the neighbors,” he said. “The public has been very positive so far.”
Witrak, the owner, has declined interviews. Mattamy hasn’t yet bought the property, located at 24575 Smithtown Rd. near Hwy. 7 between Lake Minnetonka and Lake Minnewashta, but has an agreement to purchase it. The developer plans a minimum of 13,500-square-foot lots, or a third of an acre and the homes are likely to be priced between $800,000 to $1 million.
Logan said other developers had looked to build multistory, age-targeted, high-density projects on the site, but his company’s plans will cluster the homes to preserve the rest of the 60 acres.
“We weren’t the highest bidder, but I think what they liked is Mattamy represented what the community was,” he said. “The site is a beautiful site with all of the mature trees …. There’s a lot of history there. But if we do it right, we hope the cities will see there’s a right way to do it and not upset the residents.”
Demolition of the clubhouse, built in 1963, and most of the construction isn’t expected until the lengthy approval process is finished, with most of the construction expected as soon as spring 2016.
In the meantime, the country club’s equipment is listed for sale. The city is going to conduct a traffic study. And this week the city is expected to hire a consultant to help work with the developer.
The Planning Commission had some concerns Jan. 6 about the large homes on smaller lots as well as increased traffic and drainage. Mattamy plans to present an update to the commission Jan. 20 followed by the City Council on Jan. 26. Public hearings will also be held; the City Council and Metropolitan Council need to approve amending the city’s comprehensive plan from a semipublic site to a low-density neighborhood and rezone as a planned unit development.
“There is a lot to be decided,” Planning Commission Chair Tom Geng said. But “I think they’re being very sensitive to the city’s concerns.”