Exeter Township confirms municipal complex is for sale and clarifies plans for Reading Country Club

The clubhouse at the Reading Country Club. 

EXETER — Exeter Township's effort to free itself from managing the Reading Country Club is expected to take a big step forward this week.

Exeter's supervisors released a request for qualifications in May seeking a qualified individual, group or business to manage, lease or buy all or portions of the township-owned property. The township also is open to seeing it subdivided into space for offices, retail business, a hotel and/or age-restricted housing.

No residential uses other than age-restricted housing will be considered.

The process is expected to conclude Tuesday with notification of those qualified to submit formal proposals.

Rumors on social media that the country club property, which includes an 18-hole golf course and restaurant/banquet facility, has been listed with a real estate agent or sold are untrue, according to Laurie Getz, township director of communications and community engagement.

"Nothing has changed," she said in a phone interview Friday. "The RFQ is still out for responses."

The RFQ is the first step in a two-stage process and will be followed by a request for proposals, Getz said.

The purpose of stage one is to provide developers an opportunity to formally express their interest and to narrow the field of those qualified to manage or develop the property.

Getz said proposals are still in the process of being evaluated.

Qualified applicants will be eligible to submit formal proposals.

According to the RFQ:

• Any number of proposals may qualify to move to stage two.

• In making the selection, the township will look for creative concepts that will benefit the community and be financially viable.

• Proposals will be assessed for operational or project vision and the experience, and technical and financial capability of the proposer.

The club's storied past

The township purchased the approximately 134-acre property at 5311 Perkiomen Ave. for $11.9 million in 2006.

Eminent domain was used to acquire the club in order to thwart plans for a 550-townhouse development.

The property's several buildings include the 20,000-square-foot Tudor-Revival-style clubhouse that houses a fully equipped restaurant, banquet facility and offices. It was designed by Reading architect Harry Maurer and built in 1931.

The club's 18-hole golf course was designed by noted course designer Alexander Finlay and completed between 1923 and 1925.

The club was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May 2018, primarily because the course is a nearly intact example of Finlay's work.

Wyomissing-based JMH Inc. leased the clubhouse and operated it as ViVa Castle Pub beginning in 2015. In December 2017, the township seized it and terminated JMH's lease amid a legal dispute over the acquisition of a liquor license at the clubhouse.

The club has operated at a loss in all but two years since the township acquired it. At a township supervisors meeting in 2018, Granger reported that from 2009 through 2018, the country club accrued a deficit of $574,733. During that period, the club showed a profit in only two years: 2009 when it made $907 and 2016 when it made $51,053.

The losses for the other years ranged from $12,102 to $207,197.

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