The eight-year battle over redeveloping the defunct Ashbourne Country Club in Cheltenham Township now involves a new developer with a new construction date.
The Matrix Development Group, based in Cheltenham, sold the land to Liberty Commercial Development Corp. for $9 million this week after it was unable to proceed with construction. Matrix, which had shut down its construction operations, finalized the sale of 104.5 acres to Liberty on Tuesday, said Bill Stapleton, Matrix’s vice president.
“It’s expensive to carry out when you don’t have a projects pipeline, if you will," he said. “So to start and stop, start and stop — it’s difficult.”
Bucks County-based Liberty Development will build the 166 houses Matrix had been cleared by the township to construct, set aside 33 acres to be used as public green space, and give Cheltenham $150,000 to maintain the open land. Matrix had agreed to the plan in a 2014 settlement after it appealed the township zoning board’s 2011 decision about the development planned for 1100 Ashbourne Rd.
“For what the township will have when I’m done, I think will be a tremendous improvement for all people in the local community," said Craig Edwards, president of Liberty Development.
Under the terms of the settlement, a developer — Matrix, Liberty, or otherwise — is permitted to build a maximum of 166 houses, 95 of which can be townhouses. The open space entails trails, park, and recreational land, and conservation areas.
In 2011, after two years of back and forth between Matrix and Cheltenham with skeptical locals criticizing the builder and worrying about overdevelopment, the town’s zoning hearing board ruled that Matrix could build up to 226 houses, a clubhouse, and pool. But it denied Matrix’s request to build age-restricted housing, first in 2011, then again in 2014.
“It’s a great project," Stapleton said. “And when it’s built, it’ll be a win for Cheltenham for sure.”