DULUTH – City officials are teeing up for some big changes to two public golf courses.
Duluth is accepting proposals to develop a 50-acre parcel of Lester Park Golf Course land and 10 acres of the driving range at Enger Park Golf Course.
For months, the fate of the courses has been up in the air, the subject of intense public debates. While some protested the loss of city-owned green space, others said the land poses a rare chance for Duluth to address its affordable-housing shortage.
At both sites, the city is seeking proposals for a mix of multifamily, townhouse and single-family residential developments at a range of price points, according to a news release from the city. Plans for the Lester Park course could also include ideas for properties that are partly commercial.
Discussions of selling the land arose after the courses lost money for decades, racking up $2.4 million in debt to the city. A study released earlier this year showed that the number of rounds played at the two courses dropped by 44% from 2000 to 2018.
The courses, which have been around since the early 20th century, provide scenic views of Lake Superior and contain wooded areas and open ponds. The Lester River snakes through its namesake course, spurring some of the environmental concerns surrounding potential developments.
But the declining popularity of golf, coupled with the city's need for housing, prompted the City Council to vote in August to move ahead with the sales process.
Any final decisions must be approved by the planning commission and eight of the nine City Council members. A proposal and developer will be selected and notified in January.
Revenue generated from sales would be reinvested in the city's golf courses. If the properties are sold, the Lester Park course would lose nine of its 27 holes.
"There are few areas of significant comparable development opportunity available in Duluth," a city news release said. "As such, development of the proposed site represents an infrequent and generational opportunity."