Denver, CO

Denver approves vision plan for Park Hill Golf Course

David Heitz

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An artist's rendition of new townhomes proposed for Park Hill Golf Course in Northeast Denver.Photo byWestside Investment Partners

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.)

The company that wants to redevelop the Park Hill Golf Course in Denver has affordable housing in the works.

Westside Investment Partners, which owns the course, has partnered with Volunteers of America and Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. The latter two companies will build and own about 300 units of affordable housing on the former golf course if the project is approved by Denver voters and the City Council. A covenant keeping the land only for use as a golf course must be removed in a vote if the property is to be developed.

“There’s an acute affordable housing shortage in northeast Denver, and opportunities to build hundreds of affordable units, particularly (for) our low- and fixed income neighbors in one location, are becoming exceedingly rare,” said Jeff Martinez, president of Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., in a news release.

Vocal opposition has grown to the development. Dozens of people packed City Council chambers Monday for a public hearing. The hearing preceded a council vote to approve a vision for the golf course known as a small area plan. Councilmembers Amanda Sawyer, Candi CdeBaca and Paul Kashmann voted against the plan.

‘Acute’ affordable housing shortage

Residents of the area worry about displacement that new development on the site could bring. The plan calls for giving priority affordable housing to families facing displacement by the project. ”For those concerned about longtime residents being involuntarily displaced, there are affordable housing provisions with priority for existing residents,” wrote Denver City Councilmember Chris Herndon, who represents district 8, where the golf course is located.

Herndon made his remarks in a letter that prefaces the small area plan for the project. “For those seeking to address a longtime food desert, the plan recommends space for grocery and fresh food choices, along with space and support for small, locally-owned businesses.”

But on Monday, CdeBaca said the developers had "bamboozled" the neighborhood. Resident Bernadette Kelly said it sounded like empty promises."How will we be guaranteed any of that," she asked. "Who's going to pay for it?"

Councilmembers peppered city staff with questions, too. They explained the developer will be held to the specifics of the small area plan through a succession of agreements the council has not yet voted on or have not been executed.

Sawyer explained that's exactly why she voted against the plan -- because it puts the cart before the horse. "This should have been put to the voters first."

Even if voters don't approve to remove the conservation easement, the council's approval of the small area plan Monday will remain on the books indefinitely. It would create a situation where a developer owns a piece of property they can't develop.

Sawyer noted a similar situation already exists in her district and it's a big "mess."

Affordable housing experience

“Together, our two organizations have owned, developed or managed more than 1,600 apartments serving low- and fixed-income residents across the Denver metro area,” said Doug Snyder, vice president of regional real estate development at Volunteers of America National Services, in the news release put out by Brothers Redevelopment and VOA. “There’s an overwhelming demand for affordable family and senior apartment homes across Denver, and we look forward to providing additional new housing opportunities and the services that keep these families and seniors housed in northeast Denver.”

At total build-out, between 2,500 and 3,200 “high-quality” units will fill the tree-filled golf course, according to the news release. About a quarter of the homes will be “affordable permanent housing,” according to the news release, with half of the units rentals and half for sale.

Park plans

The plan calls for a 70- to 80-acre city park that includes:

· Athletic fields, courts, and other active recreation amenities.

· Large or multiple playgrounds.

· A field house feasibility study.

· Considering aquatic amenities such as a pool.

· Community gathering spaces such as picnic pavilions.

· Honoring the historic and cultural wealth of the community.

· A climate resilient landscape plan.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

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