But I will hang on to the bitter end/s.
Westside Investment Partners has different places and different approaches. There’s the Park Hill Golf Course, and then there is Loretto Heights. That’s a lot of land put together for one developer.
One property has been pretty much supported and hailed by those in the neighboring area around Loretto Heights, with a campus with about 72-ish acres. Then, there is the 155-acre golf course, which has created a mountain of concern. Since the Save Open Space Denver group wants to focus on open space, which includes former mayor Wellington Webb and Penfield Tate, it’s going to be a long, drawn-out situation. Other groups in Park Hill want a grocery store, affordable housing, recreational offerings, and more. Many things to figure out.
But what is interesting that Save Open Space Denver and Westside want to put items on the city’s ballot in November — without much difference. Go ahead: Throw your hands up in the air, because when voters must choose one or the other, would they cancel them out?
These are different projects in the company’s approach and different leaders: Loretto Heights, with Westside principal Mark Witkiewicz, and at the golf course, principal Kenneth Ho. At the end of the day, it’s about money, issues, and personalities.
I have sat through Zoom meetings since earlier this year watching about both Loretto Heights and the golf course “visioning.” Going through my notes this morning, these approaches are really different – especially when a developer purchases a land where there is a conservation easement on the golf course.
Loretto Heights offers a lot of information, but that is the image you are seeing at the top of this blog: homes, townhomes, apartment buildings (from April 2021). I would count those little squares, but things might change. At least two buildings (Marion and Walsh) have been demolished, but Pancratia Hall will offer 74 affordable apartments. During the early June Zoom meeting, that principal said he did not know how many trees would need to be cut down, but there would be new trees planted.
I have to admit, when I was reading stories on my phone 900 miles away, I saw the mound of trees that had been cut down. I gasped. I am saddened because these were mature trees on that serene campus, but, when you need space for houses, townhomes, and apartment buildings, it is a jigsaw puzzle. One media outlet said something like 100-ish trees had been cut down, but another noted that 238 trees were cut down. Either way, it hurts. That type of place can be a giant lung, since we are living in a land of asphalt.
But that lung also could be used for the golf course but… As for the process of the Park Hill Golf Course: It’s a “visioning” process, which started out to educate those who need to learn about the golf course, but also the history surroundings (like, The Holly). The city’s Community Planning and Development and a foundation are footing the bill on this visioning process
The first facilitator who led the visioning process was all about history and equity in Park Hill. I found her work fascinating, and committee members seemed to respond. Then, she bowed out, apparently for a medical reason. With the second visioning facilitator, things began to run off the rails. The May session included complaints about a survey that was sent out to those living in .8 mile – but many said they didn’t receive the surveys, and there was anger. May I say: There was a lot of snark, but how can you stop watching or listening?
The most recent visioning session, in early June, seemed aimless, and at the end, those few committee members who attended worked on virtual white boards with virtual sticky notes, making sure they were safe and happy. I almost left the Zoom at that point.
On the city’s website, this sums up the situation:
“From the 1980s through 2019, the Park Hill Golf Course land was privately owned by the Clayton Foundation (which later became Clayton Early Learning). The golf course itself was operated by Arcis Golf. The golf course closed in 2018, and in 2019, Clayton Early Learning sold the land to Westside Investment Partners.
“Since the 1990s, an easement has been in place on the land, which limits its use to a daily fee, 18-hole golf course. This easement is still in place today. A 2019 legal agreement between the city and the new owner allows up to three years for a public process to determine if the community wants to continue limiting the future use of this property to a golf course.”
Let’s admit it: Why would you buy a 155-acre golf course with a conservation easement, then figure out a way to lift it? That easement has been in place in the late 1990s. Did its work well, but now things might change.
At the end of the day, I’ll still watch these two different “visions” about Denver, but there comes a time to wrap it up.
So, many links below, from The Denver Post, Westword, other media outlets, and City Cast Denver, with a podcast that featured Kenneth Ho from Westside and Norman Harris from The Holleran Group, and another podcast with Penfield Tate.