Denver’s defunct Park Hill Golf Course land may get a new lease on life after the city’s planning board unanimously approved the small area plan Wednesday following a seven-hour meeting.
It was just the first step in the City of Denver’s large development review process. The plan might still change before final development plans are submitted and will have to be passed by a majority of Denver voters.
Landowner Westside Investment Partners Inc., a Denver-based developer, plans to donate about 95 acres for a city park, as well as building housing — including affordable units — and retail space that could include a grocery store. The land is located at 4141 E. 35th Ave., near Colorado Boulevard.
As part of that process, the plan will appear before the Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure committee before city council sees it. The committee will hear a presentation Oct. 25 on the approved small area plan, and discuss it, but will not formally vote on it until later.
Westside officials have said publicly they want to help address the problem of lack of affordable housing in Denver.
“We are grateful that the Planning Board reached unanimous decisions to convert this privately-owned, defunct golf course into new parks and homes,” Kenneth Ho, a principal at Westside, said in a statement. “We share the community’s desire for legally binding commitments for housing, parks and shared community benefits, and we’re one step closer as a result of tonight’s unanimous decisions.”
But the challenge facing Westside is the easement and Ordinance 301, passed by Denver voters in 2021. The Park Hill Golf Course has a conservation easement which expressly forbids the city from using the land for anything other than a golf course. Ordinance 301 requires citywide voter approval before commercial or residential development can go forward.
That vote would happen only after the Denver City Council approves the final development plans.
If voters approve, developers can follow the small area plan and redevelop the land into what they call a diverse and affordable neighborhood with ample park space and needed retail amenities, like a grocery store.
Their initial plans call for a quarter of any residential development to be devoted as affordable. That means priced within 70-120% of the area mean income. That’s twice the amount of affordable units required for any new multifamily developments by Denver, which stands at 12%.
Yes for Parks and Homes, a website set up by Westside, closely mirrors the website Yes for Parks and Open Space, which was created by a group of community activists trying to stop any development on the land and keep it 100% open space.
Westside wants to set aside two thirds of the 155-acre property for public park use. The new park would be smaller than City and Washington Parks, but larger than Cheeseman and Berkeley Lake Parks, according to Yes for Parks and Homes.
Yes for Parks and Open Space want to see the entire property converted to a large park. Group representatives dispute the validity of a survey conducted by the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development, which found a majority of residents want the land redeveloped.
The Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25. The meeting can be streamed online through Denver’s municipal television station, Channel 8.
There will not be any public comment during the meeting.