Perhaps I am the only bozo who sits through numerous Zoom meetings to learn what is going on at A.) Loretto Heights, and B.) the Park Hill Golf Course.

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. 

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/06/21/denver-affordable-housing-parkland-loretto-heights-johson-and-wales/

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/02/09/denver-park-hill-golf-club-development/

https://www.westword.com/news/denver-development-park-hill-golf-course-westside-funding-ballot-initiative-11986289

https://www.westword.com/news/park-hill-golf-course-the-site-of-heated-development-debate-in-denver-11895836

https://pod.link/citycastdenver/episode/b606747dc65ad425120587ffd37ea5fd

https://pod.link/citycastdenver/episode/cfccd5e7cf9a53c3e882d2d1ee9554ca

https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Departments/Community-Planning-and-Development/Plans-in-Progress/Park-Hill-Golf-Course#section-3

2 Replies to “Perhaps I am the only bozo who sits through numerous Zoom meetings to learn what is going on at A.) Loretto Heights, and B.) the Park Hill Golf Course.”

  1. Here is my reply (published in the June 12, 2021 Denver Post):

    When is a conservation easement not a conservation easement? Apparently, at the whim of a developer. Westside Investment Partners’ “Conservation Easement” ballot initiative, which just got city approval in a record 2 ½ days to beat a July 2nd deadline, masquerades as a conservation measure, but slyly exempts the developer’s Park Hill Golf Course property from their new definition — in conflict with state law. Nevertheless, this flew through the city approval process, despite its confusing and even misleading language.

    My hope is that when Denver voters see petition gatherers at supermarkets, libraries and other gathering places talking about conservation easements, they will refuse to fall for the developer’s gambit to mint a new fortune developing the last significant piece of open space left in Denver. Our petitions which actually do strengthen Denver’s conservation easement protections has already been turned in to the city for the November ballot.

    Development is happening all around Denver, including much-needed affordable housing in my Northeast Park Hill neighborhood. Westside builds market-rate homes utilizing metro districts that impose hefty property tax surcharges on buyers that go straight into Wall Street investor’s pockets, not Denver.

    Denver voters, please don’t mistakenly sacrifice our future for Westside’s profits!
    ———————————————
    The bottom line is that Westside is using the Trojan horse of (minimal) affordable housing and a fairy tale of a grocery store in order to entice folks to allow development of potentially a couple thousand market rate multifamily units (per the old PCAC/CRL plans drawn up in 2018 that they promoted on their website).

    In reality, Urban Land Conservancy is working on delivering actual affordable housing literally across the street from the PHGC land. As is Delwest at a new proposed development at 38th and Holly. No major grocery store has expressed any desire to compete with the nearby King Soopers, Walmart, Park Hill Supermarket or Dahlia Center Community Garden (believe me, they have been asked). This is just about the Benjamins to Westside, if they can just get Denver voters to hand over their rights to the conservation easement.

    BTW — Westside is still busily collecting signatures (they need 9,184 valid ones). The YES for Parks and Open Space ballot measure just got notice of sufficiency for the November ballot.

    Like

    1. Well, I think I read this on Facebook but it is a good read. Developers get what they want — apparently, whether the mayor, the planners or the council members. I think most of us are fed up. It’s time to get a new administration that doesn’t want to lap up the money. Thank you for sending this to me!

      Like

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