The owner of the deteriorating Keys Gate golf course in Homestead hopes to get a county grant that would breathe new life into the course.
Late last week, the golf course’s owner, Wayne Rosen, sent the city a proposal that suggested transforming the community clubhouse into a convention center. He also proposed bringing in a big-time golf course designer to renovate the tees.
Rosen wouldn’t pay for those plans. Instead, he proposed that the city apply for a $10 million Miami-Dade County economic development grant. Homestead council members will decide Tuesday whether to apply.
Rosen would not sell the golf course, as he had previously contemplated, but would lease it to the city at no cost — a $10 million in-kind contribution to match the county grant, he said. Homestead would oversee construction and maintenance for the duration of the lease, which is still undefined.
If Homestead applies for and receives a $10 million county grant, $6 million would go to the convention center and $4 million would go to the golf course, Rosen said.
“There is strong community support for the golf course to reopen as a public course, and there is a growing need for a Homestead convention and meeting venue that would attract tourism dollars and create new jobs for the Homestead community,” said the proposal, which cited no evidence of demand for a convention center. “The proposed project will spur economic growth within the city by creating over 200 new jobs, with the recruitment, training and hiring primarily targeting the low and moderate income levels of the city.”
Out of the $10 million, $6 million would go toward the 50,000-square-foot convention center, and $4 million would go toward the golf course makeover, which would be designed by Jim Fazio, a renowned golf course architect.
Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter says a convention center “is certainly something we don’t have and would like to have.”
“I don’t think Homestead would be the only city using it, but also the surrounding areas like Florida City and the Keys,” Porter said. “I’m open to discussing it but really the devil is in the details.”
Councilman Jon Burgess said he thinks the idea is a “great proposition, but what happens if the project fails?”
“If this thing goes bad, what happens to Homestead? Are we stuck with a failing venture? Proposal doesn’t address it. And to be honest, I think it’s all smoke and mirrors. What kind of convention center can someone build with $6 million? They are not going to build a convention center, they are going to rebuild the clubhouse.”
Rosen purchased the operating golf course and clubhouse — which sit at the core of the Keys Gate community, a cluster of 15 gated neighborhoods — in 2014 and immediately shut them down. He promised to fix them up and reopen them as a ritzy country club that would attract locals and tourists. But the golf course has been neglected for three years and is a controversial topic among homeowners and politicians.
If the city applies for — and wins — the grant, construction could begin as early as December, and the facilities could begin operations in June 2018, Rosen said.