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The fight’s not over for the Park Hill Golf Course

What’s next for the Park Hill Golf Course?

Hello! It’s Paul from the pod, and I’m here to be your caddie as the fight over possible development at the old Park Hill Golf Course enters a new phase.

See, back in November, Denver voters weighed two dueling ballot initiatives from groups purporting to represent the interests of the Park Hill community. Overwhelmingly, Denverites chose to side with Save Open Spaces, the group led by the likes of former state legislator Penfield Tate and former mayor Wellington Webb. The SOS folks oppose development and ran a canny campaign framing the debate as “green vs. concrete.” But their initiative was not so straightforward as a simple up-down vote on development, as many voters likely believed (and probably hoped). Instead, they put together an esoteric measure — now enshrined in law — that requires a citywide vote on any proposed development of land protected by a conservation easement.

So instead of ending this fight, the election put the ball back in the developers’ court. Westside Investment Partners, which purchased the site in 2019 for $24 million, and their partners at The Holleran Group had to lay out a plan and convince a clearly skeptical public that development is the way to go.

All of that sets the stage for yesterday when dueling press releases hit my inbox. First, from Denver’s Community Planning Department, which has been working with Westside and Holleran to plan possible development, announcing that a “resident-led process” has delivered an “inclusive vision” for the site. Here were the stated goals:

  • Create a new, large park and community gathering places 
  • Stand up an oversight committee to guide future planning and development 
  • Preserve and expand the tree canopy to combat urban heat island effects in this area 
  • Add youth and recreational sports opportunities 
  • Include a variety of affordable (income-restricted) housing options, including for-sale units 
  • Address food insecurity by including space for grocery and fresh food choices 
  • Create space for local businesses and businesses owned by people of color 
  • Employ strategies to mitigate involuntary displacement

The release said that city planners will continue working with residents next year to “refine the prevailing vision into a coordinated park framework and area plan.” Then it’ll be on to City Council, and if they give the green light and some legal hurdles can be cleared, the plan will go back in front of voters, per the new SOS-backed ballot initiative.

I had barely begun digesting their new vision document when a very thorough response arrived in my inbox from the SOS folks LESS THAN ONE HOUR LATER. Basically, they alleged that the public engagement process was overly exclusive, that the city is biased toward the developers, and that there has still never been any city-led discussion of “the value of 155 acres of open, green, park space to urban life.”

“Furthermore, it is apparent that CPD is doing the bidding of the developer, Westside, and consciously ignoring, sidelining, and dividing residents surrounding PHGC, and residents of the City of Denver as a whole,” they wrote. “And yet, it seems the City and Westside are doubling down to push their development plans, ignoring the lessons from November 2.”

There’s clearly a lot of strong feelings still on both sides of this dispute and a ton of money at stake. So as nice as it would have been for the election to put a cap on this divisive issue, it looks like we’re in for at least another 18 holes of rancorous op-eds, rage-filled Facebook posts, ugly Nextdoor threads, and misleading yard signs.

— Paul Karolyi, City Cast Denver Producer and Chief Press Release Decipherer

Paul Den

Other Denver Odds and Ends

🌬️ Yes, it is REALLY windy outside: Hold on to your hats! Hurricane-force winds reaching 30-50 miles per hour — and potentially strong enough to blow down trees and power lines — are in the forecast for today from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. throughout the metro area.

👋 Bye, bye Murphy Robinson:
The city’s top public safety official announced Monday he will be leaving his position in January. Robinson, who’s held the position for two years now, did not specify why exactly he was leaving or where he was going next. A nominee to replace him should be announced soon.

  • The public safety conversation Robinson is leaving behind: Check out this episode of City Cast Denver from earlier this year about the community-driven Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety in Denver in the wake of George Floyd’s murder — Robinson pulled his department out of the process before the group put forth its 112 recommendations for change.

💰 Minimum wage boost: A pre-scheduled citywide minimum wage increase is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, upping it from $14.77 to $15.87 per hour.

🐸 Save these Colorado toads! The Denver Zoo and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are teaming up to save the state’s endangered boreal toad, native to the southern Rocky Mountains. The zoo just received 95 of the little critters with the hope of releasing around 20,000 tadpoles back into the wild by next summer. 

  • Look out for opportunities to help: The zoo plans to launch a community science project where volunteers can monitor the survival of the toadlets.

🚬 Puff, puff, NO pass… on the proposal to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products in Denver, that is. Mayor Hancock’s veto on the proposal was upheld Monday evening. Council members in support of the ban fell just one vote short of overturning his veto.  

🎧 LISTEN: Pod plug: Apparently Denver International Airport just needs a billion more dollars to finish the construction project that’s already over budget, overdue, and over the top. So we wanted to know: Why has the project taken so long? Where is all that money supposed to come from? And who is all of this hoopla really for?