September 29th, 2016

Developer wants to abandon golf course, pitches olive groves instead

Original Article by Skip Descant, The Desert Sun

It’s not often a golf course gives way to cropland, but this could be the future for an enormous planned community on the north edge of Palm Springs.

Developers are asking the city to allow them to drop the golf course from a 309-acre project known as Miralon, and replace this amenity with about 5,000 olive trees, grown for their fruit. The project would also include about 6.5 miles of hiking trails, a dog park, community gardens and two 25-yard lap pools.

The change is due in part to concerns about the enormous water usage golf courses require, and the marketability of golf course living as the sport declines in desirability, said Bradley J. Shuckhart, regional development manager for Freehold Communities, owner of the project site.


Photo: Skip Descant/ The Desert Sun

“We looked for other less intensive uses,” said Shuckhart.

“And also the popularity of golf as a sport has diminished,” he added. “And so the idea of spending all of that money to revive a golf course is less desirable than it once was.”

The locator map for Miralon, a large real estate development on the northern edge of Palm Springs, which would construct some 1,150 homes. (Photo: Submitted: City of Palm Springs)

The locator map for Miralon, a large real estate development on the northern edge of Palm Springs, which would construct some 1,150 homes. (Photo: Submitted: City of Palm Springs)

Miralon was previously known as Avalon, which was approved in 2004. Much of the infrastructure like streets, sewers, perimeter walls and some landscaping has already been installed. Once the 2008 housing and financial crisis hit, the project was all but abandoned. Freehold Communities would revive that plan, which would build 1,150 homes – some attached as multi-family housing, others built as single-family homes – while eliminating the 97-acre golf course from the plan.

Already, the Coachella Valley is home to 121 golf courses, which now account for 22.6 percent of the area’s total groundwater use, down slightly from 23.4 percent in 2013, according to water use statistics analyzed by The Desert Sun.

The olive tree groves would use a drip irrigation system and help to form a wind-break in what is a windy part of town. And the fruit would be harvested by farmers in a crop-sharing arrangement, said development officials.


The Avalon real estate development in Palm Springs was approved in 2004. Only some of its streets, landscaping and other infrastructure were installed before the Great Recession halted the project. Freehold Communities is proposing to revive the project now known as Miralon. (Photo: Skip Descant/ The Desert Sun)

The Palm Springs Planning Commission repeatedly described Miralon as “creative” Wednesday during a study session to explore changes to the development. Since the meeting was only a relatively informal session, no vote was taken on the project.

To see a plan that replaces a golf course with the drought-tolerant groves of olive trees “was one of the best days I’ve had while on the planning commission,” said Commissioner Lisa Middleton.

As a next step the commission wants to see a more clearly designed streetscape to get a better sense of how the homes will relate to each other and the street in front of them, as well as circulation.

“I am concerned that we don’t have boring streetscapes and monotonous buildings,” said Commissioner Doug Donenfeld, adding “I’m excited about the project.”