Beth Medrash Govoha, an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva that has grown to be the largest school of its kind outside of Israel, is under contract to buy the property in Lakewood Township, N.J. that was the site of the semi-private club until it was closed last summer by its owner, Matrix Development Group. But the transaction is still in its early stages with no guarantee the land will change hands. The property is zoned to allow single-family homes, and Lakewood has become New Jersey’s fastest-growing municipality.
Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG), the Orthodox Jewish college, or yeshiva, that is driving growth in Lakewood Township, N.J., may expand to an additional campus at the site of Woodlake Country Club, which closed last summer, the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reported. The property is zoned to allow single-family homes.
BMG is under contract to buy the property that includes a 150-acre golf course, according to a notice filed with the Clerk of Ocean County (N.J.) on March 20, the Press reported. The document signals that a sale is in the early stages and does not guarantee the land will change hands, according to Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella.
Matrix Golf & Hospitality, a division of Matrix Development Group, owns Woodlake CC and the golf course, which was built in 1972. A spokeswoman for Matrix, which is based in Monroe Township, N.J., did not respond to the Press’ request for comment on the sale.
The Woodlake CC property had an assessed value of $8.15 million in 2018, according to tax records, the Press reported. It sits on land zoned to allow single-family homes on lots of at least 20,000 square feet that also permits golf courses, public buildings and adult communities as conditional uses, according to the Lakewood Township master plan, which was passed in 2017.
Of Lakewood’s three golf courses that are open to the public, two are now facing futures that would involve other uses, the Press reported. While Woodlake CC may become a college campus, the owners of Eagle Ridge Golf Club want to turn it into a 500-duplex neighborhood, with just 9 holes left over.
The proposal to build at Eagle Ridge is controversial and the Lakewood Township Planning Board was scheduled to continue a public hearing on the proposal during a meeting on the evening of April 16 at the Township municipal building.
Purchasing the land is an option that the leadership of the yeshiva said the college is “actively exploring,” the Press reported.
“We are exploring the possibility of developing a campus that could help us accommodate future growth without drawing more commuters up and down the Route 9 corridor that runs through the heart of Lakewood,” Rabbi Aaron Kotler, President of BMG, told the Press.
It could be months before a final decision is made whether to pursue the project, Kotler added. He declined to disclose a sale price for the land.
The scope of the expansion is uncertain, but it would likely include student housing, according to Kotler. BMG’s existing study halls and student residences are clustered north and west of downtown Lakewood, which has a population of just over 100,000.
A campus at Woodlake would be a 15-minute drive away and in a less densely populated part of town, the Press reported.
“As the Lakewood population grows, we all have to think out of the box,” Kotler said.
The yeshiva enrolls about 6,600 men in graduate and undergraduate studies of the Talmud, a guiding text of Judaism, and is the largest school of its kind outside of Israel, the Press reported. Founded in 1943 by Kotler’s namesake and grandfather, the school began with just 13 students.
Now, it’s a powerhouse drawing new residents to New Jersey’s fastest-growing municipality, which is experiencing a business boom, the Press reported. In the last five years, Lakewood added more new office space than all but two other New Jersey municipalities, and last year alone 169 new brick-and-mortar businesses opened in the 25-square-mile township.