The Lyndhurst, Ohio club has entertained offers from various developers, including one for $16.5 million, but the Board of Directors selected the non-profit preservation group over other competing bids. Shareholders will vote on the deal Sept. 6.
The Conservation Fund, a non-profit group that uses private money to preserve land, is offering $14.75 million for Acacia Country Club in Lyndhurst, Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
Shareholders of the 160-acre private club are considering the deal after its Board of Directors chose the offer over competing bids from local developers. The shareholders will vote on the offer on Sept. 6. The sale would require members representing two-thirds of the outstanding shares to vote yes, and the property could change hands as early as December, the Plain Dealer reported.
“I’m amazed that a not-for-profit is willing to pay that much for the most valuable piece of property in Northeast Ohio,” said Terry Coyne, a Grubb & Ellis broker who marketed the Acacia land in 2009. “There aren’t any sites this large that could accommodate so many different uses.”
Lyndhurst resident Norma Adams protested the rezoning for the nearby Legacy Village shopping center 12 years ago and welcomes news that a huge slice of east side suburban land would be green and open to the public, the Plain Dealer reported.
Mayor Joseph Cicero, however, said selling the property for green space would be “unconscionable,” as cities watch tax revenues fall and brace for more cuts.
“If that piece of property is not going to remain Acacia Country Club, it needs to be developed,” Cicero said. “Green space is great, and everybody loves a nice, beautiful field. But be careful what you wish for, because that could be the dismantling of a community.”
Developers have attempted to buy the property, looking to transform it into everything from a corporate headquarters to more shopping. Shareholders narrowly rejected a $12 million offer from retail developer Visconsi Cos. Ltd. in June and Hemingway Development recently offered $16.5 million for the land, the Plain Dealer reported.
“I’m not going to comment on any of the other offers that were made,” Acacia President Charles Longo said. “The board did not just consider the dollar amount. There were other terms and conditions of the offers that we did not believe were in the best interest of Acacia. And the fact that the Conservation Fund has plans to keep this from being developed and preserve nature is a very attractive component.”
Matt Sexton, a senior vice president of real estate handling the deal, said the nonprofit plans to buy and hold Acacia, the Plain Dealer reported.
“It really is a rare expanse of green space on the east side of Cleveland, and it seemed like a great opportunity to try and protect some open space for the community and future generations,” said Sexton.
If approved, the Fund would have 90 days to conduct more research and close the deal. The club would split the remaining money from the sale among shareholders after paying off its debts, the Plain Dealer reported.
“We’re still working through what the ultimate use will be, but our hope is that the property will be available for everyone to come and enjoy an outdoor destination,” Sexton said.
The Conservation Fund’s offer is not contingent on city approvals, which did play a role in offers from private developers. The Acacia land is zoned for single-family homes, but the city’s code does allow for parks, with sign-off from the Lyndhurst Planning Commission and City Council, the Plain Dealer reported.
Real estate experts described the conservation proposal as a “shame” for Lyndhurst. Cicero said developing Acacia could produce $500,000 to $750,000 in annual tax revenues for the city.