Food for thought: are agri-hoods a good substitute for golf communities, or just another fad?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

 

By now it’s no secret that association-governed communities planned around a golf course are not as appealing to home buyers as they were 20 years ago. The number of golf players has been decreasing over the past decade, and most experts have opined that, at most, 20-40% of homeowners are committed golf club members in their communities. Generally, low membership levels do not generate enough revenue to keep the golf course and country club profitable.

In addition to shrinking interest in the sport, there is growing concern about adverse environmental and economic impacts of maintaining a golf course. Turf management requires frequent moving, treatment with fertilizers and pesticides, a plenty of water for irrigation. Golf courses located in deserts or tropical climates are especially challenging to maintain.

Bloomberg reports that 800 golf courses have closed over the past decade, resulting in abandoned greens and club houses, many of them integrated into planned communities.

Landowners are now embroiled in conflicts with existing homeowners, over how to use or redevelop the land for useful purposes.

 

And in Palm Springs, California, an 18-hole golf course constructed a decade ago has never been opened for play. The course was created as the centerpiece for what has now become a zombie community, casualty of the last recession.

But a new developer has acquired the land, and intends to redevelop the golf course as olive groves, the basis for a new sustainable agricultural community named Miralon.

The concept behind the transformation is to make better use of the common space. Olive trees are better adapted to the desert climate, and far less expensive to maintain than a golf course. Homes will be built to surround the olive groves, the golf cart path will become a walking and biking trail. A farm to fork gathering place will replace the club house.

The industry refers to this new type of planned communities as an Agri-hood.

Miralon is just one example. I posted about others here.

 

Local media in southern California have been abuzz about the transformation and the new trend for sustainability. But there are different ways to be good stewards of the land.

Here’s a news release about Miralon.

Good-bye golf course, hello olive groves! New Palm Springs enclave to become an ‘agri-hood’

By MARILYN KALFUS | mkalfus@scng.com | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: October 22, 2017 at 11:04 am | UPDATED: October 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

The olive – that familiar little fruit lolling around in your martini – is about to make a splash in the Southern California real estate market.

The developer of a new residential enclave in Palm Springs is swapping out an 18-hole golf course for dozens of acres of olive groves.

The 300-acre sustainable community, named Miralon, is planned as one of the nation’s largest agricultural neighborhoods, or “agri-hoods,” where new homes crop up around community farms.

Read more:

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/10/22/good-bye-golf-course-hello-olive-groves-new-palm-springs-enclave-to-become-an-agri-hood/

But, is the Agri-hood a good idea?

In the article linked below, The Desert Sun reports that, while Miralon is proposed as an Agri-hood, Virada will repurpose a 27-hole golf course as a public park instead.

In Virada, tax dollars will support open space that all can enjoy.

In Miralon, homeowners will effectively own shares in the olive groves, and, it appears, will be financially responsible for growing the crop or at least supporting the Olive Oil company that will be doing all the hard work.

Further details are scant on websites that promote new home sales.

Eco-Modern Community Coming to Palm Springs
Miralon Transforms Former Golf Course into Groves and Gardens for Mid-Century-Inspired Homes and Resort Amenities

Blau Journal, August 30, 2017

The Coachella Valley’s love of outdoor experiences is the inspiration for a vast, 97-acre open-space plan. The former golf course is being repurposed into groves, parks and trails including more than 70 acres of olive trees, cultivated by Temecula Olive Oil Company, with drip-irrigation. Former golf cart paths will constitute approximately 6.5 miles of hiking trails. Former tee boxes and greens are being transformed into smaller groves, dog parks, exercise stations, and social areas outfitted with firepits and WiFi. Olive oil from the orchard will be pressed on-site, and produce from the community gardens will go directly to the tables of residents.

https://www.blaujournal.com/eco-modern-community-coming-palm-springs/

 

And, as you can see from the excerpt highlighted below, developers are motivated to create Agri-hoods as a cheaper way to give home buyers open space, when compared to building and maintaining a golf course.

 

Will Palm Springs area homebuyers pick parks over golf courses? Developers are betting on it

Rosalie Murphy, The Desert Sun

Published 11:13 a.m. PT March 23, 2017

“When people realized you could also sell a house for a premium without designing a golf course, that really started to change the thinking,” McMahon said. “A number of developers, starting even before the recession, started to realize, ‘hey, I can provide something that many more people want and I can do it at much less cost.’ ”

Today, McMahon said, developers are exploring what that open space can look like. Many are designing parks with networks of walking trails. Others are building what McMahon called ‘agri-hoods’ — housing around agricultural land. The forthcoming Miralon project in Palm Springs will surround cultivated olive groves, and though developers said it won’t function as a commercial farm, the homeowners association may produce olive oil for residents.

Read article:

http://www.desertsun.com/story/money/real-estate/2017/03/23/golf-course-desert-development/98309082/

 

Agri-hoods tend to be targeted to affluent homebuyers, with home prices well above national medians and averages. Presumably, homeowners will consciously choose this lifestyle, and can well afford to subsidize local agriculture within the confines of their private communities.

But I wonder if buyers will go in with their eyes fully open, and whether the Agri-hood will follow the marketing trajectory of the golf community in a decade or two.

Community Supported Agriculture

The truth is, one can support community agriculture without being obligated to one particular farm, and without tying that financial obligation to the title of one’s home.

Before buying into an Agri-hood, consumers should read about Community Supported Agriculture, especially the part about the “shared risk.”

https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

And home buyers and homeowners considering converting a golf course to an Agri-hood should also be aware of the pros and cons of what would essentially be a CSA limited to their own community.

The Pros and Cons of Joining a CSA

 

A CSA membership can be very rewarding, but some years are better than others. The advantage of a CSA over an Agri-hood is that the consumer is free to drop membership at the end of the growing season, and work with a different CSA next season.

One final note.

With regard to olives in particular, I was surprised to learn that it takes anywhere from 3 to 12 years for an olive tree to bear fruit. So buyers cannot necessarily count on an immediate return on investment. Reading the fine print in the sales contract will be very important. A buyer will need to understand their investment in the Agri-hood, and decide whether or not to fully commit to a sustainable, private association-governed community, regardless of the cost or final outcome.

 

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