The Newark Country Club last week closed on a deal to sell its property to Lang Development Group and then lease it back for up to 20 years.
Club officials view the deal, which was first announced last year, as a way to solve the club’s financial difficulties while ensuring it survives for at least another decade.
“There is a bittersweet aspect to the successful conclusion to the sale of the property,” club president Chris Scherf said. “While we were unable to continue forward indefinitely as owners of the club property, we have been able to avoid an outright closing of the club and to instead launch a new chapter for another 10-to-20 years. We appreciate the Lang group working with us to fashion this novel solution.”
Under the deal, Lang will buy the 119-acre property for $6 million and lease it back to the club for 10 years, with the club retaining an option to extend the lease for another 10 years. During that time, the club will continue to be run by its own board of directors and management as an independent not-for-profit entity.
Scherf said the infusion of capital and elimination of the organization’s debt will allow it to invest in improvements to the golf course, swimming pool and dining facilities over the next two years.
“We have created a new position to market the opportunities for membership, as well as alert the general public to the opportunity to hold events and parties at the club, regardless of whether or not they are members,” Scherf said.
Meanwhile, the club is gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary with several events later this year.
Chris Locke, senior vice president and general counsel for Lang Development, insists the company has no plans for what it will do with the property once the club’s lease is over.
“We bought it so the club can stay there for 10 years and hopefully 20 years,” Locke said in November, after the country club’s shareholders approved the sale. “This is a transaction that, most likely, the next generation of Lang Development owners will be looking at.”
He noted that he grew up in nearby Fairfield, and both he and Jeff Lang enjoyed playing golf at the club with their fathers.
“We understand it is a real gem for the City of Newark, and we will pay it due respect, knowing the importance and value it has to the entire community,” he said. “It’s humbling to know that Jeff and I will have some impact on one of the most important real estate parcels in the City of Newark.”
While there are certainly some Newarkers who aren’t happy to see the country club property fall into the hands of the city’s most prominent developer, Mayor Jerry Clifton said he thinks the deal is better than some of the other possibilities.
“If the country club has got to go away, I think this is a good option where it’s able to exist for at least the next 10 years,” Clifton said in November.
Clifton noted that the zoning code allows for more than 270 homes to be built on the property, which would have happened under a previous deal in 2008 were it not for the economic downturn.
“That’s the option of what it can be from a legal perspective, and there isn’t a lot the city can do to say no to that,” he said.
Clifton called on Lang to work with the city and the community to chart a path forward for the land once the club leaves.
Locke said Lang Development would be willing to have that conversation.
“I think the beauty of the City of Newark is there is always a collaboration between its citizens, developers, and the city to come up with the project that is best for the town,” he said. “When that time comes, of course, we’ll communicate with the adjoining property owners and those who are affected.”