The 30,000-sq. ft. mansion built by grape broker Michael Hat in Manteca, Calif. has sat empty since Hat declared for bankruptcy in 2001 and the property was bought at a foreclosure auction by a developer that has since been unable to follow through on proposed residential projects. Proponents of using the property for a new course note that would fit the goal of the city—which currently has one public course but is expected to see its population jump from 75,000 currently to over 125,000 by 2040—to become known as a hub for entertainment and recreation in Northern California.
In a recent column in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin, Executive Editor Dennis Wyatt reported on a suggestion by Ray Valentim, a reader of the Bulletin, that a 30,000-sq. ft. mansion built on 184 acres by grape broker Michael Hat should be used to “make a great clubhouse and golf course.”
Hat filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and the property is now owned by Richland Communities, which secured it in a foreclosure-auction bidding war with developer Mike Atherton that got as high as $8 million, Wyatt wrote.
Richland Initially saw an opportunity for an age-restricted community, with plans to convert the mansion into a clubhouse, Wyatt noted, but the Great Recession sidetracked that effort. After the economy began to recover, a closer assessment of the property was made and there was talk at one point of possibly converting the mansion to civic use, such as a library, as part of a proposal to get approval to build housing.
But eventually, Wyatt wrote, the idea of converting the mansion to any use “slammed into the brick wall of reality. A detailed structural assessment of the mansion determined it was cost-prohibitive to convert it into any public use, as well as bring it up to current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.”
That prompted Richland to drop plans for 800 age-restricted homes and instead roll out a proposal to build 1,030 housing units, Wyatt wrote. But that project also got shot down, primarily because of the placement of smaller lots against existing larger lots, instead of creating a buffer.
So now, Wyatt wrote, why not consider the idea that Valentim proposed when he wrote, “It seems no one can figure out what to do with [the mansion], and even demolishing it is controversial. Has anyone considered turning the mansion into a clubhouse and the adjacent acreage into a golf course?
“With all of the commercial growth in Manteca, a major golf course would not be out of the question,” Valentim continued. “Manteca has attracted the likes of Bass Pro Shops—one of only four [Bass] stores in all of California—Big League Dreams, and soon Great Wolf Resorts will also be a Manteca destination. Why not make Manteca part of a pro golf tour? Job creation and financial growth for our area would be astounding.”
While Atherton saw the same possibility for a project that would include a gold course when he entered into the bidding war with Richland Communities for the property, Wyatt wrote, the odds are “slim to none,” he feels, that Richland, as the current owner, would give much thought to a golf course, because demolishing the mansion to build homes would be significantly less expensive than trying to convert and retrofit it.
“That said, the idea of a pro golf tour-style course may not sound out of sync with reality, despite five courses closing in the Bay Area during 2017, French Camp’s 9-hole course becoming toast duing the drought, as have others in the region, and the fact that Stockton [California] is looking at selling or converting the use of two municipal golf courses,” Wyatt added.
“Another golf course would seem to build on the city’s long-term strategy of making Manteca the Northern California hub for family entertainment and recreational sports,” Wyatt noted. The city of some 75,000 residents that is about 75 miles east of San Francisco, in San Joaquin County, currently has one course, Manteca Park GC, that has “a solid draw and strong future,” he wrote. But Manteca is “heading toward 124,900 residents in the next 22 years,” he added, “and the emphasis on recreation/family entertainment to power the economy [makes having] a second course of an even higher quality than the existing one [not] out of the question.”
A civic project in the works to supply treated wastewater to the Manteca area would provide “an ideal source of irrigation water,” for a new course, Wyatt noted.
“While city leaders may not want to touch an idea such as a second golf course with a ten-foot pole at the moment,” he concluded, “it might make sense to give it an exploratory consideration as a possible private-/public-sector venture somewhere down the road.”