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Golf course, arboretum proposed for South Buffalo

by chocieni
Wed, Apr 30th 2014 01:00 pm

 A large tract of brownfield land in South Buffalo could find new life as a 9-hole golf course and arboretum.

That's the long-term version, unveiled Tuesday by the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. Officials predict it may take anywhere from five to 10 years to secure funding and proceed with the plan that was created by a team led by Mark Mistretta, Wendel principal. The development price tag could approach $12.3 million combined for the course and arboretum.

"It serves a dual purpose," said David Stebbins, BUDC vice president. "It makes good use what is now brownfield land and it gives public access to the land."

Building a new golf course would replace an existing site at South Park while the arboretum goes back to landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted's late 1800s vision for Buffalo's parks.

Mistretta and his team spent more than a year reviewing various possibilities for the 150-acre site, located just off of South Park Avenue, Hopkins and Tifft streets. Replacing the course was a top priority but so was finding a viable use for the rest of the land, much of which is currently owned by Steelfields Ltd. — the same private sector entity that sold former South Buffalo industrial property to the city for what is now the Riverbend Commerce Park.

Mistretta noted that are 23 parcels and 9 private owners for the land being considered.

The review period included looking at environmental conditions as well as market demand. Besides the 9-hole option, the review committee considered an 18-hole and 14-hole option. Both were rejected for cost and market conditions.

"There isn't a strong market for new holes but there is for replacement holes," Mistretta said. "The results confirmed what we heard, that people are willing to pay a little more (for rounds of golf), if they are getting something different."

Financially, the course could turn a profit approaching $325,000 annually a few years after it opens, officials estimate.

"Very few golf courses pay off in the first year or the second year," Mistretta said.

Besides the course, Mistretta said the clubhouse could be used as a community center.

In addition to the arboretum, Mistretta said the land is perfect for a nature center, walking trails and a dog park.

One of the benefits of the project would be its role in attracting more people to South Buffalo, said Thomas Herrera-MishlerBuffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy president and CEO.

"It's more than just the golf course," he said. "The more amenities we have there, the more we can draw people into the park."

So what happens now?

Stebbins said there are many issues to be worked out, financial and environmental. A development time table has yet to be established.

"At least now, we got hard numbers to deal with," Stebbins said.

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