Highland Golf and Country Club has reached an agreement to sell 12.5 acres along the White River to a local trust, ensuring the land will be preserved for years to come.
Terms of the deal call for the Central Indiana Land Trust to pay $2.7 million (the appraised value) for the scenic property that Highland first considered selling last summer.
The transaction enables leaders to fund improvements to the aging club, in an effort to attract new members by building a new pool house and tennis courts and to renovate the clubhouse.
“This creates a pool of capital to take us into the 21st century and prepare the club for its second 100 years,” Jay Boyd, Highland’s president, told IBJ.
The sale to the land trust was not without some controversy, however.
Local developer Litz Real Estate had wanted to purchase the same land, but up to 20 acres, to build 48 homes on the eastern boundary of the 152-acre property, along the west bank of the White River.
The development, dubbed Highland Estates, would have featured 14 estate-type homes within a gated community, 14 garden-style houses and 20 duplex homes, according to documents filed with the city. Prices would have ranged from $450,000 to more than $2 million.
But the plans didn’t sit well with dozens of homeowners in the area, living south of the 18-hole course’s southern border of West 52nd Street.
They mounted a fundraising campaign in hopes of buying and preserving the land, and partnered with the Central Indiana Land Trust in an effort to sway club membership to choose their pitch over the Litz development.
The land along the White River that the trust is purchasing offers striking views of the White River and is home to 300-year-old foliage and lots of wildlife.
It’s unclear what prompted directors to favor the trust’s offer. Boyd would only say that they considered two “completely divergent proposals” and chose to go the “preservation route.”
For his part, Litz Real Estate President Brad Litz, a member of Highland, said he understands the decision and is OK with it.
“It would have been a great opportunity for residential development,” he said. “But I can see the merits on both sides of the table.”
Land trust executive director Cliff Chapman couldn’t be reached for comment. But neighbors who banded together to raise the money to preserve the land are elated with Highland’s decision, neighboring resident Anne Doran said.
“This was the result of the Buttonwood Association, Highland Kessler Civic League and Rocky Ripple joining together to raise sufficient money to fund the purchase,” Doran said in an e-mail. “Each one of these neighbors contributed either time, money or encouraging words to the effort to bring about this unique partnership with the club.”
Highland Country Club was established in 1919 and moved to its present location in 1925. It has 300 members.
Renovating the 36,000-squre-foot clubhouse will be one of the club’s first priorities, “so that it’s a 21st century facility and not a 19th century facility,” Boyd said.
The club has hired architectural firm Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf to design clubhouse renovations.