Golf

Ponds golf course redevelopment: Maplewood previews the options

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With Ramsey County choosing to close the Ponds at Battle Creek golf course in September, community leaders and residents are asking what’s next for it and another county-owned parcel in south Maplewood.

The scenarios range from leaving the South Maplewood-Century Avenue Redevelopment as is to stocking it with low-income housing units. The city planned to post another survey on the Maplewood city website for resident input at the end of the week.

While the discussion also covers a 77-acre site north of the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (Site A), community interest is focused on the 88-acre site that currently houses the golf course (Site B). Supporters of the Ponds hope to change the county’s mind or find some way to keep the golf course operational beyond its Sept. 12 closure.

The county owns the properties, but the city has zoning rights. County commissioners have expressed interest in using the properties to build much-needed affordable housing.

“As with all decisions by the county, we will center racial equity, as well as our county’s vision of a vibrant community where all are valued and thriving,” Board Chair Toni Carter said Wednesday.

Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams is hoping for a compromise.

“I continue to support the Ponds golf course as a true recreational asset in our community, and I’d like to see it maintained as a golf course that can be enjoyed for generations to come,” she said. “I see the other parcel that is currently undeveloped near the correctional facility to evolve organically to a combination of housing, retail, and impart some of the abundant wetlands on the parcel to be added to Battle Creek Regional Park.”

The four concepts being considered for the Ponds golf course in Maplewood. (Courtesy rendering)

Only about half of the land area on both properties is suitable for construction due to wetlands and other geological features.

Minneapolis-based firm Perkins and Will presented the following possible options for Site A, the northern property:

  • No build: The acreage is left wild which may be good for wildlife, but offers no trails, roads, or shelters for people.
  • Clusters: This scenario would have single family homes with a light sprinkling of affordable units clustered in neighborhoods with their own open space for parks or community gardens.
  • Enclave: Denser construction, but still focused on single-family housing with some townhomes and twin homes mixed in, leaving the south end natural as a buffer to the facility.
  • Mixed-use Crossroads: Increased density with a focus on multi-unit residential construction and retail.

Site B projections have a similar low to high density layout, with or without the golf course.

  • No build: Leave as is with the golf course.
  • Urban Reserve: Keep only the clubhouse, parking lot and driving range. Bring in single-family homes and community gardens.
  • Village: No golf course. Rather, playgrounds, parks, trails, some single family and some multi-unit housing.
  • Neighborhood Center: No golf course. Focus on multi-unit housing with retail on first floor and possible grocery store.

The city and county held its third community engagement forum virtually on the topic earlier this week. Perkins and Will used community input from previous forums to guide its projections. Comments ranged from keeping the golf course to keeping it as open space to environmental concerns. High-density low-income housing was not the popular choice.

“Low-income housing is the worst of any available option,” said one commenter named Nolan Denny. “Given the value of the homes around the area, we should look to surround our community in a way that improves it, not detracts from it.”

One thought community gardens was a nice idea, but not appropriate for the area given the large number of deer that live there.

A few took issue with Commissioner Jim McDonough’s “white privilege” remarks in last week’s board meeting when he opposed giving the golf course a nine-month extension.

“I’m not so sure it’s white privilege as many people just want to keep open space and keep it nice. I don’t know that we need more retail,” said one commenter named Daniel Billig who also questioned if public input would really matter. “Ramsey County wants to develop this for low income housing. Is that the end result? Is that really the path we’re on?”

Both Carter and Abrams said community input would be considered in the final decision.

“Our decisions will be directly informed by this community engagement process, and the work of Perkins and Will,” Carter said.

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