Third Coast Development initially purchased the 121-acre Grand Rapids, Mich., property for $2.6 million last week with plans to build condominiums and homes, but instead immediately sold the property for $3.5 million to the Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The organizations plan to restore the habitat, develop trails and create public programs.
The Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids, Mich., which saw golf greats in the 1980s and 1990s, will be going back to nature, Michigan Live reported.
Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan purchased the 121-acre public golf course last week. The golf course’s owner, Steve Scheuermann, said he sold the land to Third Coast Development for $2.6 million last Tuesday. The developer then immediately sold the property for about $3.5 million to Blandford and the conservancy, Scheuermann said.
The purchase essentially doubles the size of the nature center property, Live reported.
Though Third Coast Development initially intended to build condominiums and homes on the property, and had obtained an option to buy the property in July 2016, the developer changed its mind after talking to the neighboring nature center, Live reported.
“Once we started talking to Blandford about the future of the property, we realized that sometimes development needs to take a back seat to an idea that benefits our entire community,” said Brad Rosely of Third Coast in a statement.
The course will remain open through the year, Live reported.
Mary Jane Dockeray, founder of Blandford and a former board member of the Land Conservancy, said the acquisition was the “last and only chance” to expand the nature center’s property. “The community of Grand Rapids has been waiting patiently for something like this to come along—we will be able to serve more students, families, and friends as a result,” Dockeray said.
Students at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy and Blandford School use the nature center as a part of their classroom, Live reported.
“This project provides a big boost to our community’s efforts to ensure quality of life for all of our residents,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “It also offers a rare opportunity to create significant green space and focused tree canopy in the city—priorities for our community as we work to make sure this is a great place for everyone for generations to come.”
The course is 109 years old and was designed by Donald Ross. The property hosted a Senior PGA Tour event for eight years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was owned by The Elks until 2011 when it was sold to Scheuermann, Live reported.
“The Highlands offers an extraordinary opportunity to foster a stronger connection to the natural world through habitat restoration, environmental education, volunteerism, and recreation—all things that will make sure that our city is a great place to learn, live, play and work for generations,” said Jason Meyer, president and CEO of Blandford Nature Center, in a statement.
The property was purchased by Blandford in a partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and with a $3 million short-term loan from the Conservation Fund. Third Coast Development and Pioneer Construction are also financially supporting the project, Live reported.
After acquiring the land, Blandford will be studying the biodiversity on the property and preparing it for public access. The Land Conservancy will own part of the property after paying off its loan, and will be taking the lead on fundraising. The second phase of the project will gather community input and work to restore the habitat, develop trails and public programs, Live reported.
The 143-acre Blandford Nature Center is an independent, charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit – though the land at the center itself is owned by the city of Grand Rapids. It began using property from a family farm and throughout the years has been managed by the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Rapids Public Schools, Live reported.