Amid housing crunch, homes pop up on the fairway

By Keith Schneider | The New York Times

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — Buffeted by rising costs and declining interest from golfers, the Links at Queen Creek course closed two years ago after 26 years of operation. But with the demand for housing in Arizona soaring, Walt Brown Jr. saw a different fate for the 106-acre parcel of grass and palm trees southeast of Phoenix.

Mr. Brown, the chief executive of Diversified Partners, a developer in Scottsdale, Ariz., bought the property this year for $16.8 million. His new project, the Ironwood Springs Ranch, will include 172 homes on nearly 49 acres.

Across the country, developers like Mr. Brown see potential for construction on struggling golf courses. Large expanses of grass and trees sewn into the fabric of prosperous communities look like open space ripe for development. When it comes to golf courses, though, looks can be deceiving, and developers have learned to be cautious.

“You have a great piece of real estate,” said Jonathan S. Grebow, founder and chief executive of Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, a New Jersey firm that specializes in golf course redevelopment. “But after closing, it can take three, four, five years to start construction.”

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