Pending approval from St. Johns County, Oak Bridge Club owner David Miller brought a comprehensive overview of his development proposal for the property before the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition Monday, Aug. 28.
“I realize it’s a thorny issue, but it’s an issue we all must address and deal with, otherwise the options are horrific,” Miller said of his plan, which includes adding a new age-restricted community (55 years and older) to the Sawgrass neighborhood off of A1A.
Located at 254 Alta Mar Drive, Oak Bridge currently features an 18-hole golf course, a tennis court and the recently opened 3 Palms Grille restaurant. While the tennis court and the restaurant recently underwent improvements, Miller contended that the golf course is also in dire need of reparations, which will cost more than $2 million.
“When we foreclosed on the golf course, along with the tennis court, swimming facility and the restaurant, it was losing collectively about $55,000 a month,” Miller said. “So, we had to determine, ‘What are we going to do? Do we let this thing go foul, or do we try to resurrect it?’”
Until recently, Miller’s plans for renovating the course were hindered by a land use restriction – set in place by previous ownership and the Sawgrass Players Club Homeowners Association – which required that the golf course remain a golf course until 2023. In February, the Sawgrass Players Club voted overwhelmingly in favor of lifting the restriction on 40 acres of the course so that they could be sold, and extending the restriction on the remainder of the course through Jan. 1, 2057.
“We had overwhelming support from TPC Sawgrass HOA members,” Miller said. “It was uncanny. I think the TPC HOA brass that are in here have never seen a turnout like that.”
The proposed development plan specifies that half of the 40 acres of land would be sold to a developer and the other half designated for green space, lakes and recreation. The sale of the land would shorten the length of the golf course, reducing the total number of holes from 18 to 12. Miller said that this new hole number would be a selling point.
“Golf among the millennials, they don’t have the attention span for [18 holes],” Miller explained. “Courses getting constructed now are of 10, 11, 12-hole configurations, and you can still keep it really engaging and interesting.”
Two of the proposed parcels of land (A1 and A2) would include approximately 15 developable acres for a senior living community with a maximum of 330 residences. Parcel A1 would be for single-story residences (maximum building height of 24 feet), while building on Parcel A2 would be three stories (maximum height of 58 feet).
A third parcel (Parcel B) along A1A would be developed for either 15,000 square feet of commercial use, or as an extension of Parcels A1 and A2 for additional residences or amenities (maximum height of 58 feet). The proposal also outlines a potential ingress from Parcel B to Sawgrass Village Drive for easy access.
Parcel C, consisting of 17.5 acres adjacent to portions of Cypress Creek, Oak Bridge and Water Oak, would not be developed, but would include either a lake or green space view. Parcel D, located between Bridgewater Island and Parcel A1, would not be developed.
“The $2 million guaranteed at the sale would be dropped into escrow,” Miller said, “and the deployment of that $2 million minimum to go into the golf course to revamp the remaining 12 holes will be overseen by the PGA Tour.”
Now that he has secured the support of the Sawgrass Players Club, Miller still needs to obtain the approval of St. Johns County. Pending the necessary approvals, Miller has focused his efforts on gaining the support of the public.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a decision of the community,” he said. “What does the community desire? What will the community support? What will the community embrace?”
As far as Miller is concerned, his goal is not merely to revitalize a neglected golf course, but to preserve an often overlooked piece of local history.
“I’ve only been here 10 years, but I hear that this course, this club and this area had a heyday—a social heyday, a golf heyday, a tennis heyday and they had big lines out the door for brunch,” he said. “It was vibrant, but it died off under poor management. I believe we can get it vibrant again.”