Turning Park Hill golf course in northeast Denver into a mixed-use mini neighborhood with affordable housing and business space is going to be a heavier lift after the November election, but the redevelopment is what most people who live nearby want, according to a summary document released by the city this week.
Save Open Space Denver, the grassroots group that has been fighting to keep development off the 155-acre property, meanwhile, is decrying the summary and the city-led planning process that informed it as eyewash designed to forward the goals of the development companies that own the land.
The Park Hill Golf Course Prevailing Vision document was released Monday. It boils public input gathered over the course of 2021 into eight priorities. The process included public workshops, small group discussions, meetings of a 27-member steering committee and a survey that more than 2,600 northeast Denver residents filled out this spring. The priorities are:
- Build a large public park and other gathering places on the property formerly only open to golfers
- Create an oversight committee for future planning and development
- Protect existing trees and plant more
- Create more youth and recreational sports opportunities
- Build income-restricted affordable housing including for-sale homes
- Provide space for a grocery store and other fresh food options
- Provide commercial space for local businesses, especially those owned by people of color
- Have strategies ready to combat the involuntary displacement of neighborhood residents that could result from the redevelopment
Save Open Space, or SOS Denver, was behind Initiated Ordinance 301 which prevailed in November over a competing measure backed by Westside Investment Partners, the development firm that bought the course for $24 million in 2019. The measure dictates that any future development planned for the course — already subject to a city-owned conservation easement — must get the blessing of voters in a citywide election before moving forward.
SOS Denver, on Monday, released its own bullet-pointed list of reasons the report and the city’s planning process should be discounted. The statement was signed by five people who served on the steering committee.
Reasons included that the steering committee never discussed plans for development on other properties near the course that stand to increase the residential population and the need for more park space; and that the city exhibited “clear and proven bias” toward Westside that colored the entire process; and that there was never a serious discussion about the value of open space on a warming planet.
“There are many more severe flaws in this process and the summary that are too numerous to detail here,” reads the final bullet point.
The prevailing vision document is a stepping stone. The planning process, steering committee meetings and community outreach will continue in 2022 as city officials work to create more detailed plans for the property including a framework with specific locations and details for park space on the land. The city plans to collect fees from the property owners to help fund that work.
Ultimately, officials expect to approach the city council for approvals including amending the conservation easement that dictates the property remains home to an 18-hole golf course. Once a clear vision is in place, the city will refer a question to voters in a citywide election in accordance with the requirements of Ordinance 301, the summary document says.
Kenneth Ho, a principal with Westside Investment Partner who has been leading the company’s work on the golf course, said nothing in the summary report is surprising to him. It’s the same list of wants Westside has been hearing from neighborhood residents since it bought the property. While 301 dilutes the influence of people living in the greater Park Hill area, it doesn’t change the end goal.
“It means that we have to go through the city process to master plan the site and put some detail around what the site’s going to look like and what commitments will prevail in a citywide election,” Ho said.
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