A former golf course in Richmond where golf hasn’t been played in years and that has long been listed for sale was bought earlier this spring by a Chicago businessman who plans to convert the property into a campus featuring an event space, bungalows for overnight guests and a craft distillery.
Marc Bushala, who bought the more than 100 acres located along Route 173 for $1.2 million, said he was attracted to its “rolling hills, mature trees and the Nippersink Creek rolling right through it.”
So far, he plans on building a new business for events like corporate retreats, weddings and weekend getaways for families, couples and friends, with amenities like a distillery, paths and natural views along the creek, and perhaps equestrian riding, as well as nearby lakes for recreation and fishing.
“The thought is an event venue, size to be determined, with architecture of barns as the main design element, keeping a rustic country feel,” said Bushala, who has a house in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.
He pictures independent dwelling units dotting the property, which would vary in design and size between different sections of the parcel and could be rented for one or more nights at a time.
Bushala has built businesses in several sectors in the U.S. and overseas and helped establish and run multiple event venues in Chicago, including the Untitled Supper Club, a restaurant and lounge with a speakeasy style at 111 W. Kinzie St.
He felt there was an opportunity in the market around Richmond for a venue that also could host guests overnight.
“We did a study of what is available within a 10-mile radius in terms of event venues. There is a critical shortage of accommodations from our understanding of the market,” Bushala said, adding his site would feature low-density lodging. “It’s hard to find places to stay, especially in the high season.”
Since the land has come under its new ownership, Richmond residents have been enthused by its prospects.
“It’s really exciting,” said Jeanne Doyle, the owner of the Doyle’s Pub establishment downtown who has spoken with Bushala and is acquainted with someone who works for him. “Anything [on the golf course property] is a step forward for Richmond.”
Bushala said he was also interested in buying Memorial Hall when it up for sale, but that formerly village-owned structure ended up in the hands of another buyer who is said to be planning on making upgrades and using it as an event space, as well.
Richmond Village President Toni Wardanian said she thinks the market for events and tourism in the area would have no trouble supporting both a new hospitality and events business at the golf course property as well as a renovated Memorial Hall event space, and Bushala agreed.
“It’s a huge amount of land right on 173 and U.S. Route 12. How many cars go by a day? [Route] 173 is a highly trafficked road. To have that be developed into something is going to be better than it is right now,” Wardanian said. “If it were still a golf course, that would be great. Having it redeveloped as something else that is actually going to bring in sales tax for the village, that would be tremendous.”
She thinks the village is heading in the right direction with growing its business base. There is the planned arrival of new retail uses along Commercial Street in the form of a Dunkin’ coffee shop, which could involve erecting a building adjacent to the NAPA Auto Parts store.
The village also has fielded other inquires in recent months about expanding commercial structures or moving into vacant ones to start up or grow a business, according to village meeting minutes.
“I think there is already a good number of people that come to Richmond and Twin Lakes. I think it’s another reason to go. I think we can boost tourism,” Bushala said. “The more good businesses there are in the neighborhood in Richmond, the better. We want to really support the merchants there.”
He hopes to be through the planning phase and ready to seek development permits from the village within six months to a year, he said, adding the construction would take place in phases.