Editorial: Empower Northeast Park Hill residents to demand more at the old golf course

Future of Denver’s Park Hill golf course unlikely to be on November ballot

As the tug-of-war over the future of the former Park Hill Golf Club continues, city planners and the development firm that owns the 155-acre property are gearing up for another round of public feedback on plans that would better define what redevelopment there could look like.

Meanwhile, opponents of commercial and residential development that could pop up on the former links, are calling the city planning process irreparably flawed and working to share their own ideas about what the property could look like.

Amid the noise, one thing is becoming clear: Denverites should not expect to see a question pertaining to the golf course on their ballots in November.

Just last year, voters approved Initiated Ordinance 301. That measure strengthened the protections of the taxpayer-funded conservation easement that covers the land, giving the city’s electorate the final say on if that easement can be lifted or not. As long as the easement is in place, no development that isn’t golf-related can take place on the property located along the east side of Colorado Boulevard between East 35th and East 40th avenues.

“We absolutely plan to abide by (the ordinance) and put this question to the voters,” said Kenneth Ho, a principal with Westside Investment Partners, the real estate company that bought the course for $24 million in 2019. “The timing is still to be determined, but I think we can pretty much say it will not be November.”

Last week, Westside submitted an application to the city planning department for the large development review process, a special track for large projects likely to develop over extended periods of time. That application is summarized on Westwisde’s ParkHillGolfCourseReimagined.info website. It calls for the creation of hundreds of units of affordable for-sale and rental housing (well beyond what the city’s affordable housing policy requires) and donating more than 100 acres to the city for a regional park.

“We need to have a clear vision in order to put that to the voters and that’s what this process is,” Ho said. The large development review effort is expected to lead to a binding affordable housing agreement with the city and other legal guardrails.

The next step for Westside is an open house scheduled for the golf course’s clubhouse on Aug. 4.

“We are getting ready to announce some pretty incredible partnerships and additional features and community benefits that will we announce at that Aug. 4 meeting,” Ho said. “We’ll be able to provide more substance beyond just want is presented in the application.”

That effort is running parallel to the city-controlled planning process for the property that dates back to early last year. In December, Denver Community Planning and Development officials released the “prevailing vision” for the property. The eight-point vision included the creation of a large public park but also called for commercial space for local businesses, especially those owned by people of color, and providing space for a grocery store and other fresh food options.

Under the guidance of city planner David Gaspers, the city is preparing a draft of a plan expected to be ready for public scrutiny next month. The plan, meant to serve as a guide rather than a set of demands, would cover things like recommended land use, mobility and a road map for incorporating housing.

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