Denver residents push for open space after golf course sale

Park Hill course will need a zoning change before development


Politics, business and citizen activism entangle the 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course property in the aftermath of its recent $24 million sale from Clayton Early Education to Denver developer Westside Investment Partners.

Clayton Early Education sold the property on July 11 to help fund its mission providing early education to needy families in Denver, said staff at the nonprofit organization. Developing the property for commercial and residential will require rezoning, as the city currently has the golf course at 4141 E. 35th Ave. zoned for OS-B, or open space-recreation.

Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, a nonprofit coalition of representatives from Denver’s registered neighborhood organizations, insists the city should retain the Perpetual Open Space Conservation Easement it designated when it paid the Clayton Foundation $2 million in 1997. INC fears that the rapidly increasing density in Denver — especially at the expense of open space — negatively affects the city’s lifestyle.

“We know we’re not gullible enough to believe that in the world of politics that sometimes there are agreements, and then there are agreements,” said former Mayor Wellington Webb in an address to INC representatives Aug. 10. “I don’t see a smart businessman buying a site for $24 million unless he thinks he has the capacity to turn that into his project. Unless there was an agreement before that took place.”

During that meeting, voting members of INC passed a resolution rejecting a zoning change required for developing the property for any use other than open space. INC delivered the resolution to all city council members and Mayor Michael B. Hancock on Aug. 23.

The course temporarily closed this season to accommodate a city storm water detention project currently under construction on 60 acres in the northeast corner of the golf course. When the project is completed, it will entail only 25 acres.

Kenneth Ho, a principal with Westside Investment Partners, said his company will seek citizen and other stakeholders input on their vision for the 155-acre property. He envisions open space as a component of a prospective development on the property, which has been operated under a lease agreement between Clayton and Texas-based Arcis Golf. Westside acquired Arcis’ lease rights in the deal. Arcis lease rights run through 2023, with an option to renew for five years.

The amount of land dedicated to open space will depend on Westside’s determination of the size and scale of various elements of a development project as well as from community engagement, Ho said. The company has not filed for a rezoning as of press time on Aug. 28.

Park Hill Golf Course has been on the list of potential development properties in Denver for quite some time. In 2017, the City of Denver offered Clayton $24 million for the property.

Arcis, which had the right of first refusal in its lease, subsequently sued Clayton in April 2018, filing a second complaint a year later which added the city of Denver as a co-defendant. The city later withdrew its 2017 offer, considering the Arcis lease rights. Arcis’ suit against Clayton has since been dismissed, according to court records.

The city’s interest in acquiring the property was renewed in January 2019, when officials offered a deal where it would lease half the property for $300,000 a year for 30 years, or $9 million total, and purchase half the property for $10 million.

Members of INC have been keeping their eye on a potential sale of the property since the beginning. Woody Garnsey, a retired lawyer and longtime Park Hill resident, has been a central figure for INC and others who insist that Denver needs to protect the Park Hill Golf Course open space easement. The easement’s sole purpose was to protect open space in Denver.

“The perpetual conservation easement states that it’s for maintaining the land’s scenic open condition and for preserving the land for recreational use,” he said.


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