Deeds and WeedsFebruary 16, 2009

Grenelefe Redevelopment Hits Snag

I'm part of a group of eight guys that takes a golf trip every year in March. We've been doing it for more than 20 years now, and some of our destinations have included Amelia Island Plantation outside Jacksonville, PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Hilton Head Island.

But one year our gang went to Grenelefe, a resort with three courses located in Haines City, Fla., outside Orlando. We still reminisce about that trip a lot, particularly the chipping contest we held one afternoon from one of our rooms, through the sliding glass doors, over a balcony, and onto one of the greens located directly below (I think we drank a lot of alcohol on that trip) -- and the sad fact that financial troubles forced Grenelefe to close the golf courses in 2002.

Last year it appeared Grenelefe was poised for a comeback. An Irish real estate entrepreneur, Garrett Kenny, bought Grenelefe for $51.5 million, and unveiled grand plans for a $300 million redevelopment of the place, including the reopening and refurbishment of its golf courses, and a new name: "Horizons at Grenelefe." (Details here.)

But sadly (as with nearly every story these days about real estate and financial investment) those plans now seem to be on hold -- or, as this story in Ireland's Sunday Business Post, described it, "on life support." That was a reference to all of Kenny's real estate ventures in Florida, which include the Tuscana real estate community outside Orlando, as well as the Grenelefe recovery effort. Kenny has lost most of his financial backing for the projects, as banks everywhere pull back on lending.

"These days, I'm not a real estate developer, I'm a firefighter,"  Kenny told the newspaper. "It's soul-destroying, but I'm not the only one in this situation."

-- G.R.