The Fight To Preserve Open Space in North Denver Gains A Strong Advocate

For the past 3 years a battle has been fought in North Denver by neighbors and activists hoping to save the last significant parcel of open space remaining in the heart of Denver – 90-year-old Park Hill Golf Course.

Earlier this year the Denver Post ran a series of articles on the issue of increasing densification within the city limits, the lack of parkland and open space, and the impact of pollution and climate change that Denver suffers from as we evolve into a “Concrete Metropolis”.

After years of public forums, focus group discussions, community surveys indicating popular support for this land to remain open, and even better, to become a city park, behind-the-scenes dealmaking with a major lobbying firm acting as matchmaker for the seller and the city, it appeared that the property was going to go the way of much open space and become yet another high density housing, retail and commercial development.

The initial deal fell through when the current occupant filed lawsuits against both the owner, Clayton Trust, and the city to keep it as a golf course for the duration of their lease. Recently however, yet another deal has been brokered, but this time with a new player, Westside Investment Partners.

That was the final straw for the Denver Post Editorial Board. Today’s editorial challenges in no uncertain terms the mayor and city council to do what is right for Denver’s citizens and keep in place the existing protections currently forbidding development, and turn this 155-acre site (the size of Wash Park) into the beautiful public park in the century old tradition of Denver as a “City within a Park”.

From their editorial:

Unless the prospective buyers of Park Hill Golf Club are indeed interested in operating a public golf course on the 155 acres of prime real estate in north Denver, they’d best pull out of the deal now.

The land is still under a city-held easement restriction that doesn’t allow development. And the public sentiment these days, and for the foreseeable future, is strongly in the camp of increased parkland and open space. We can’t imagine the City Council or Mayor Michael Hancock would be foolish enough to lift the restrictions.

Denver has been home to incredible, transformational projects in recent years, but most have been dominated by private development subsidized with taxpayer dollars. It’s time for our civic leaders to be bold and envision something spectacular for north Denver, something that is publicly owned and can compete with urban parks across the world. Taxpayers and donors would certainly chip in for the right vision.

Now is the time for Hancock and our city leaders to win this land battle for generations to come.

The Post also published my letter to the editor yesterday which provides additional context:

Now that the election is over, I’m not surprised to read of an all-but-done deal to sell Park Hill Golf Course to a private party on July 11th. Despite the current occupant’s two pending lawsuits, a 5-year lease to operate as a golf course with an option for a second five years, plus an expressed desire to exercise their first right of refusal to purchase the land, notwithstanding Mayor Wellington Webb’s 1997, $2 million perpetual conservation easement, and of course mandatory rezoning hearings by the city before it can be developed, somehow — miraculously — a private developer has the confidence that none of that will stop them from turning a tidy profit on this land.

Meanwhile, dilapidated industrial properties that are ripe for redevelopment into retail and housing near the golf course lie unloved and ignored, while the shiny specter of new high-rises on virgin open space capture the imagination of developers, lobbyists and politicians in the city. All the buyer and their agents need is for newly re-elected Mayor Michael Hancock and enough City Council members to roll over and say “scratch my belly.”

 

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