By Eric Heinz
Plans for what to do with the 155-acre former Park Hill Golf Course, located just south of Swansea, cleared a major hurdle in making their way to the Denver City Council, but unique to this development, it would also need to survive voter approval.
The Denver Planning Board recently approved the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) small area plan and the zoning amendments desired by the developers, Denver-based Westside Investment Properties and The Holleran Group.
The city council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure committee held an informational session a week later where members heard from the planning team and asked questions, but they did not vote on whether to advance the package to the full council.
The full council ultimately will decide whether to bring the plans to a citywide vote.
The development team is aiming to build a series of multifamily, mixed-use buildings, between five and 12 stories high, and structures that could house retail and a grocery store, while keeping at least 100 acres of the area as park space. There are also plans to update the mobility and infrastructure in the area.
“We know that there’s a shortage of high-quality rental and for-sale housing, all of it,” Kenneth Ho, a principal with Westside, told The G.E.S. Gazette in a recent interview. “It’s impacting everyone, whether you’re a minimum- wage earner or a senior on fixed income.”
Buildings would be primarily situated to the west, near Colorado Boulevard, with residences nearest to the northwest corner. South of that, also adjacent to Colorado Boulevard, would be the retail and grocery store.
The 100-plus acres of park space would encompass everything to the east of the developments. The fight for what should happen to the former PHGC has been going on for years now. Last year, opponents to the development plans were successful in securing a vote that now requires any development on land with a conservation easement to go to a citywide election.
Most opponents want to keep all the land as open space and as a public park.
“This false narrative of parks versus homes is just inaccurate,” Ho said. “We need parks and homes in this city.”
During the planning board meeting, which between the zoning and the small area plan discussions lasted about seven hours, some people said they disagreed with how the planning process for the former golf course has been conducted.
Harry Doby, who commented on the city’s website with information about the Park Hill Golf Course plans, said the planning process was assuming that development on the land was the only option for the city.
“The reason for the binary question simply is the nature of conservation easements; they either protect the entire property or they protect none of it,” he wrote. “So as we’ve been saying for years, develop around the property, not on it.”
He added the city should try to acquire the property using voter-approved funding to create a regional park.
“Developing on the PHGC is neither inevitable nor advisable,” Doby said.