The City of Denver says it is negotiating a legal agreement regarding the future of Park Hill Golf Club, which was sold earlier this year to a developer.
The 155-acre closed golf course in the heart of an urban neighborhood was acquired in July by Westside Investment Partners from the George W. Clayton Trust, managed by Clayton Early Learning, for $24 million after sales negotiations with the city broke down.
At the time, Clayton's president said the sale was aimed at sustaining the Clayton Early Learning school, which provides care and education for children, especially those whose families could not otherwise afford it.
The lease to operate the golf course had once been a reliable source of income for the Clayton school. But golf revenues dwindled in recent years, and the course was closed in 2018 after the city filed a permanent storm water detention easement on a portion of the site.
Even before the sale, neighbors had been worrying worry the large open space may soon be turned into concrete, and local residents asked the Denver City Council in August to protect the course from commercial or residential development, 9News reported.
Westside told 9News in July that they see the future of the land as something other than a golf course, although they did not spelled out their plans. Andrew Klein, the principal at Westside, said then that the firm planned to begin a “listening tour” to hear what residents say should be done with the property.
As The Denver Post reported, before the sale, the company that operated Park Hill as a golf course sued the city over the flood-control project. Westside took over that suit when it bought the property.
The proposed agreement "would end litigation involving the property, and would ensure the City and community retain the right to approve changes to how the land is used," says an announcement Tuesday from the office of Mayor Michael Hancock.
The announcement adds:
"The existing easement [on the property] established more than 20 years ago requires operation of a regulation-length 18-hole daily fee public golf course. Once the City completes a flood-control and storm-water project, the property must be restored to a golf course and related uses. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the land use restriction would remain intact. Any change to that use would require City Council approval, and thus a thorough and inclusive community process."
The city did not provide additional details, and said the settlement agreement itself "will be made available once it is finalized in coming weeks."
“We wanted a guarantee that Denver would have a right to provide input about the property’s future,” Hancock said in the announcement. “We know the community values open space, and so do I.”
The property's fate has long been an issue in the community, with former Mayor Wellington Webb weighing in on the side of those seeking to preserve it as open space.
Webb held a June 24 press conference in front of the shuttered golf course’s clubhouse, calling on residents to urge the City Council to preserve the property as open space.
“If we allow this golf course in Park Hill to be ... redeveloped in a concrete jungle, I believe no park in Denver is safe,” Webb said then. “Because what do we get in its place? Housing like across the street, where you walk out the door and you’re on the sidewalk with no greenspace?”
Westside pushed back on that statement, saying at the time that the course was private property, not a city-owned park.
The course's fate even became an issue in the hotly contested Denver mayor's race this spring, with opponents of Hancock criticized his administration for not pushing back enough against developers during a period of explosive growth. (Despite his stance on the golf course, Webb endorsed Hancock's re-election.)
This story draws on reporting by the late John C. Ensslin of Colorado Politics.