A Denver developer is planning to demolish a handful of properties along Fairfax Street in the Park Hill neighborhood and replace the structures with a park, restaurants, office space and dozens of new housing units.
The Park Hill Commons project could potentially transform the area, pulling new diners, neighbors and shoppers to the street between 28th and 29th avenues. Some look forward to that transformation — while others worry the investment, upward of $25 million, could push up property taxes and push out neighbors.
“We wanted to create a gathering place,” said Ben Maxwell, president of HM Capital Group, the developer of Park Hill Commons. “Park Hill is an amazing neighborhood — I actually used to live there back 12, 15 years ago or something like that — amazing neighborhood, lots of great people but the hardest part is there’s not a lot of walkability in Park Hill.”
Maxwell hopes to create a place within walking distance for most of the neighborhood where people could live, work, dine and play. His plans include adding 22, second-story micro studios at the north end of the block, 21 townhomes at the south end and office, retail and restaurant space and a park in the middle.
HM Captial Group is going through the city’s review process and hopes to break ground on Studios at Park Hill Commons building and Fairfax Row townhomes during late summer. Six months later, the Offices at Park Hill Commons and Shops at Park Hill Commons building is expected to be started.
“We’re hoping spring 2018, we’re open,” Maxwell said.
Across the street from the project, the longtime owner of Hillside Barbers, Shawn Harrell said she was unsure how the Park Hill Commons would fit into the community.
“I’m worried about the taxes,” Harrell said. “The guy I lease from has always had pretty affordable rent to run a business in the area. If something like that comes, that might force his hand to have to raise our rent to cover his taxes.”
And it’s not just her barber shop’s survival she’s worried about. Harrell said older folks on fixed incomes in the area, like her grandmother, could also struggle to stay in the neighborhood if their home evaluations drastically increase and they’re left with higher property tax bills.
Around the corner from the project, the general manager of Bistro Barbès, Megan Silvertooth, is looking forward to the project
“We’re actually really excited about it just because our restaurant has been here about three years, and at least once or twice a week, there are people who come in and say, “I had no idea there was a restaurant here,'” Silvertooth said. “We’re excited too for the development to come and bring more people and attention to this part of Park Hill.”
Compared to most of the other neighborhoods in Denver, Park Hill seems somewhat sleepy to Silvertooth with only a couple spots where there’s an abundance of family-owned restaurants and coffee shops.
“Park Hill is such a huge neighborhood that those things feel far and in between,” she said.
Overall, The Park Hill Commons project is “a mixed bag for the community,” said James Davis, a member of the Greater Park Hill Community Inc. neighborhood organization.
“For me, I think this development is really important because of the green space, because of the addition of bike infrastructure and because of the addition of housing units at a time when Denver really needs them,” Davis said.
The Greater Park Hill Community group hopes to work with HM Capital, business owners, their City Council representative Christopher Herndon and others to possibly bring in a grocery store, a business incubator focused on women and minorities or other tenants that could benefit the community, Davis said. The organization also wants to start a dialogue about how to protect existing residents and keep Hillside Barbers, Bikes Together and other existing organizations in the community.
“It’s important we work with all stakeholders to make sure those businesses aren’t displaced due to any market pressures that come about because of the development,” Davis said. “The community is really excited to work with the developer and our elected officials to make the proposal even stronger.”
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