After searching for land for five years, the city is one step closer to a new park for the University Hills neighborhood.
Nestled just three blocks east of Colorado Boulevard in a quieter residential area is the Groundcovers Greenhouse and Garden Center. The city approached store owner Gary Luster with an offer to buy the land.
“As many of you have heard, our property is being purchased by the city of Denver and will be turned into a park within a couple of years,” the Groundcover website reads. “We currently anticipate the store will close permanently sometime in late summer. Thank you for all the wonderful years!”
The store sits on just over two acres of valuable real estate at 4301 E. Iliff Ave. In May, city council approved a deal for the city to buy the land there, as well as an adjacent building that is also part of Groundcovers at 4307 E. Iliff Ave., for $5.1 million using tax revenue from measure 2A. Voters approved the measure on the November ballot. It added a .25 percent tax increase that goes toward park projects and land acquisition.
With the boom of development around the major street, finding land for a much-needed park has been difficult, said Gordon Robertson, director of planning, design and construction with Denver Parks and Recreation.
“This was a great opportunity to secure a piece of property for the future,” he said. “We’re lucky to have found the property at all.”
Before 2A was approved, Robertson said the city struggled to race developers to buy properties in University Hills. The city would need to secure grants and other funding before buying the land, and often lost out on prime locations.
Councilmember Kendra Black, who represents the University Hills neighborhood. said she was excited to see the project come together. She has been working with the city to acquire land for a park in the area for several years.
While there are some parks nearby to University Hills, such as Mamie D. Eisenhower Park, the goal of 2A is to have parks within walking distance of all residents. Many residents in University Hills also had to cross major streets like East Yale Avenue. This is something many parents are hesitant to let their children do, Black said.
Black said it will be at least a few years before a park is built on the land. First, the city will need to look at logistics and clear any buildings from Groundcover that won’t be used. Robertson said Parks and Recreation may keep the greenhouse space to support the department’s main greenhouse at City Park. Any garden equipment left behind also may be repurposed.
The new park will also need to go through a public process. Either late this year or early next year, the city will host an open house with residents to determine what amenities they would like on the two-acre space, which is is a decent size for a typical park with a playground, Robertson said.
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