Saga continues at Brad Faxon-owned Metacomet Golf Club

A company’s proposal for redeveloping once-proud Metacomet Golf Club — with the historic Donald Ross design in East Providence, Rhode Island, just days away from closing for good — by creating a “work-live-play” environment with public open space has been withdrawn.

On Friday morning, the firm, Marshall Development, notified East Providence officials that it had formally withdrawn its petition for rezoning the property that includes Metacomet, according to a spokesman, Bill Fischer.

The club is scheduled to close on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Club employees like the final caddie are preparing for the inevitable.

The developer’s withdrawal reflects a change in direction, based on a determination that it has been unable to foster a “constructive community dialogue” regarding the benefits of its vision for developing the property, Fischer said in a news release.

Marshall will now try to develop the property in a different way without a rezoning or an amendment to East Providence’s Comprehensive Plan.

Under the developer’s initial plan, Marshall would have gained the ability to pursue a “more dynamic development” while preserving much of the golf course, which is closing, for open space, Fischer said.

Some critics of that initial proposal, including Candy Seel, are optimistic that another investment group will offer to buy the property and keep the golf club in place.

A local opposition group, Keep Metacomet Green, is “gratified” that the developer has withdrawn the proposal, Steel said.

“We are confident that Plan B will never come to fruition,” Steel said.

Back in November 2018, Golfweek reported on the prospects of Metacomet Golf Club – which had amassed significant debt, primarily in the form of back taxes – as it prepared itself for a sale. Three suitors emerged, with the membership eventually settling on a group the included PGA Tour great Brad Faxon. The reported sale price was $2.2 million.

It seemed like a match made in heaven: A golf course with an ironclad “player’s club” pedigree and the bones to reassert itself as one of the best layouts in New England, and an ownership group led by a Rhode Island celebrity and philanthropic leader who also happened to have grown up there. Faxon and his father, Brad Faxon Sr., are former Metacomet club champions.

In a letter to the club’s board accompanying their proposal, MPC positioned Faxon as their point man for any alterations to the golf course, citing his “unquestioned expertise in golf course design, style, and playability.”

To help Metacomet dig its way out of its financial hole, MPC proposed to develop real estate on the 11th hole and part of the long par-3 12th. This would necessitate rerouting the golf course, a job that was earmarked for Gil Hanse, a longtime friend of Faxon’s – in the 2000s the pair collaborated on the renovation of TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts.

However, Faxon said, there were serious impediments to rejuvenating Ross’s layout.

“The course is adjacent to tidal waters and has some smaller internally flagged wetlands that if we did even minor work we would have to get approvals from DEM [Department of Environmental Management], CRMC [Coastal Resources Management Council] and maybe even Army Corps [of Engineers],” Faxon wrote. “Any meaningful work would have required millions of dollars and closing [the] course for at least a year.”

Hanse’s design partner, Jim Wagner, who visited Metacomet in March 2019 – before MPC closed on the sale – said no formal master plan was ever developed for the club.

In 2019 MPC made some improvements – some trees were limbed or removed, the clubhouse interior received new flooring and a lick of paint to freshen things up – but the group also made moves the membership found off-putting. They experimented with allowing outside play at a handful of price points, causing grumbling among members who were still paying private club-level monthly dues.

Tom Dunne of Golfweek added reporting to this article.

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