Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb entered the fray over the future of the Park Hill Golf Course on Monday when he urged residents to tell the City Council to block the pending sale of the property to a developer.
“If we allow this golf course in Park Hill to be sold and redeveloped in a concrete jungle, I believe no park in Denver is safe,” Webb said, repeating the last sentence two more times during an impromptu news conference in front of the Park Hill Golf Course clubhouse.
“Because what do we get in its place?” Webb asked. “Housing like across the street, where you walk out the door and you’re on the sidewalk with no greenspace?” he said, referring to a row of two-story townhomes.
“Now maybe I’m old, and maybe that’s not the Denver I remember,” Webb added. “But when I came here from Chicago, I didn’t want Denver to be Chicago. I wanted Denver to be Denver.”
Webb’s remarks came 17 days before the scheduled closing on the sale of the 155-acre golf course between the Clayton Trust, which owns the land, and Westside Investment Partners, which seeks to develop it.
The city had been trying to purchase the property but talks broke down. Trust officials notified the city earlier this month that a closing was scheduled on July 11.
When asked for comment on Webb’s remarks, Andy Klein, the president of Westside, said the deal appears to be going through.
“We’ve come to terms, and I’m not sure what can happen to undo that,” Klein said, noting the closing date.
As for Webb’s call for residents to pressure the City Council and mayor’s office, Klein said, “I would ask people before they form an opinion to take a look at the work we’ve done in Loretto Heights.”
He said his company has worked to address the concerns of neighborhood groups around that large tract of land in southeast Denver.
“The vast majority of them will tell you that we worked so hard to address the concerns and come up with a plan that’s beneficial to the larger neighborhood and the city.”
Klein also disputed Webb’s remarks that no park in the city would be safe if the Park Hill Golf Course deal goes though. He said those city parks are public property, unlike the privately-owned golf course.
And he pointed out that residents can not currently enjoy the golf course as a park.
But by developing the property, he said the project can create accessible park space plus address the neighborhood's need for a grocery store.
Webb remarks also come after a hotly contested mayoral campaign in which opponents of Mayor Michael Hancock criticized his administration for not pushing back enough against developers during a period of explosive growth.
Webb supported and campaigned for Hancock’s successful re-election to a third term. But three incumbent City Council members, including two close allies of the mayor, were defeated.
“I think the last election should have sent a message,” Webb said. “And the message was, we have been so pro-development that three council members did not win their re-election.”
“And it’s my hope that the new members of City Council and some older members who’ve been serving on City Council, will heed the public and this one old man’s dream that parks will always be important to people of Denver,” he added.
When asked for comment on Webb’s remarks, Theresa Marchetta, a spokeswoman for Hancock’s office said, “The owner has a legal right to sell their property, and it is not for the mayor to support or oppose that decision,”
“That said, preserving open space is always a priority for Mayor Hancock,” she added in an email. “Because of the pending litigation involving the Park Hill Golf Course, we cannot comment further on future considerations at this time.”
Officials at the Clayton Trust, which supports the Clayton Early Learning School, could not be reached for comment.
It a June 10 letter to the city, Clayton President and CEO Charlotte Brantley thanked the city for its continued support of the school.
“The sale of Park Hill GC will help ensure sustainable long-term income from this asset of the Clayton Trust in furtherance of our core mission of providing high quality early childhood education to children of limited opportunity throughout Denver,” Brantley wrote.