The day before Thanksgiving, residents of the Gird Valley gave thanks to Jade Work, the man who saved the area from feared development.
Work, along with his wife, Julie, completed the purchase of struggling Fallbrook Golf Club and its 116 acres of Gird Valley real estate Nov. 15. The process of buying the property took months as the Works and golf club owner Jack Lamberson dealt in court with Ronald Richards of D-Day Capital LLC, which owned the notes on the property.
Richards and associates have purchased stressed golf courses throughout California with plans to develop the properties, and when Richards began the foreclosure process against Lamberson, many feared the worst. The Works ended the angst when they completed the deal.
Directors of the group SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com organized a meet-and-greet with Jade Work in the golf course’s clubhouse and more than 100 members of the community attended the Nov. 23 meeting. Upon entering the facility, people stopped to sign and write messages on one of the group’s signature “SaveFallbrookGolfCourse” banners, which was later presented to Work. Scribbled notes ranged from greatly thanking Work to calling him a “hero” and “savior.”
Work hosted a question-and-answer session with the audience after describing his plans to build a world-class winery on the property that will also feature a wine tasting room, a barrel room, a restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as courtyard-type venue that could be used for corporate events, weddings or parties.
“I won’t be successful in this unless this place is spectacularly beautiful,” Work told the crowd. “I have a huge vested interest to make it spectacular.”
Work, who reportedly paid about $4 million for the course, also stated his plans to put a conservation easement on the entire property to protect it from ever becoming a housing development, and his desire to make 36 acres on the northern part of the land a public park.
“I have had many meetings with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, and it’s my desire to turn that into a true public park,” said Work. “The northern piece of the property would be purely open space for walkers. The lower space would be a working vineyard.”
Work said the existing building that for 50 years has housed the clubhouse and restaurant/bar will be reduced down to studs and completely remodeled.
“I’m working with an architect now, and I’d say it’s a 90 percent chance this is going to be very old world Italian-style architecture,” said Work. “There will be a wine tasting room, and we’ll have a completely new kitchen. I really want to develop a kind of indoor/outdoor dining.”
Work said it will likely be two years before the restaurant is open.
“This all has to be drawn and submitted to the county and the Fallbrook Community Planning Group to get everyone’s approval,” said Work. “Hopefully we can get building permits within six months and then it’s another year and a half to build the structure.”
Work hopes to start planting grape vines in April.
“We’re planning right now on about 45 acres of grapes,” said Work. “That’s subject to change.”
Work’s plans also call for building a barrel room into a hillside where the ninth green used to challenge golfers. The barrel room will be used for storing wine to age and will be designed to accommodate people for dinners and special events.
All of the ideas were greeted with great enthusiasm by the vast majority of those in attendance. After his presentation, Work was treated like a celebrity as people lined up to shake his hand and say thanks, offered to help in any way possible, and promised to support his new venture.
Work, a friendly, easy-going individual, is also very determined. Owner and operator of the golf course construction company Integrity Golf, Work has built elite courses throughout the western U.S. as well as in Korea and Mexico. Conceding that Fallbrook Golf Club simply couldn’t make it financially as a golf course, he came up with another plan – a winery – and couldn’t wait to get started on it.
Work and his crew began working on the Gird Valley property Nov. 16 – the day after escrow closed.
“We had 30 men out here, cleaning up all the trash and debris,” said Work, adding there is a lot of clean up to be done. “All the old equipment is being hauled off, and all the maintenance areas cleaned. All the dead trees are being removed.”
Work was asked about the task of running his existing company while directing his new Gird Valley project.
“I love it,” said Work. “I wake up at five in the morning with just a head swimming with ideas. And I love that, I live for that. I don’t do too well if I’m not under a lot of pressure. I just don’t.
“Even though this is a massive endeavor, I’ve never had so much fun,” continued Work. “It’s super, super exciting. My wife and I want this to be like, ‘holy crap, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.’”
Work’s attitude is why people like Joan McConnell, a key player in SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com, have been on cloud nine since the escrow closed.
“My husband and I were in the Portland airport when I got the call that the escrow had closed, and I was literally doing cartwheels down the concourse,” said McConnell. “We were just super excited. As you can see, Jade is a real go-getter and we’re really happy to be part of the process.”
McConnell said the Works have etched themselves a place in Fallbrook history.
“To me this feels like a new chapter in the history of our community,” said McConnell. “Because we have this history of agricultural families here. There’s the Girds, and the Reches, and that’s a really important history to a lot of people here. It’s an agricultural community, and I think this feels like the Works are now sort of the stewards of this new chapter in that agricultural history of our community and specifically this valley. That’s a really cool thing, to see that starting to unfold.”