People want to turn Park Hill Golf Course into a grocery store, athletic fields and other things

You don’t have to read 236 pages about an old golf course to better understand what’s happening next, because we did it for you.
4 min. read
The Park Hill Golf Course. June 4, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

What's 155 acres, grassy and not a golf course?

Park Hill Golf Course. It closed in 2018 and was sold a year later to Westside Investment Partners, who planned to then work with the city to sort out the land's excruciatingly complicated conservation easement. Another group called Save Open Space Denver wants Westside to forget developing the land altogether and keep it as-is.

Everyone else has been caught in the middle, including the Park Hill Golf Course Steering Committee, a 27-member board that consists of residents, community leaders, activists and one Westside representative.

The latest insight into community wants and needs comes in the form of a study conducted by RRC Associates, a marketing firm paid by the city. According to their results, people living nearby basically want the big rectangle of space at 35th and Colorado to do multiple jobs. That's not surprising, according to Sean Maher of RRC.

"Among all household types, races and ethnicities, a combination of green space and development was the preferred option," he said at a steering committee meeting on June 8.

The study was conducted through two surveys - one was sent via mail to all residents living within 0.8 miles of the site, as well as a few randomly-selected households up to 1 mile away. The other survey was distributed online and was open to the general public. Around 1,300 people and 1,400 people responded to the mail and online surveys, respectively.

Like most things regarding the Park Hill Golf Course, the poll was not universally supported. In the poll comments, many participants wondered whether including questions related to development of a piece of land still under conservation was even fair. Others called it a "push-poll" because the first question forced respondents to choose a preference between "golf" and "all other uses," only later giving folks a chance to vouch for other open space. Some have also questioned the distribution of the mailed survey; in the steering committee on June 8, a resident said he and his neighbors had not received it, despite living in a community bordering the golf course directly to the north.

The resulting data was compiled in a hulking, 236-page monolith and includes everything from the study's methodology to specific survey answers. Residents responded to the mailed survey at a rate twice the national average, and their passion and fervor was very apparent in the final tabulated document.

Here's what the survey says people want:

When nearby residents were given the chance to pick their desired land allocations for the golf course, around 70 percent created a blend of green space and developments. Just over 20 percent wanted only open space, while 8 percent wanted only development.

Nearly half of locals also included space for stores and restaurants. Over forty percent picked recreational facilities, and 35 percent favored affordable housing.

Parks were very popular across the board, but athletic fields were a bigger priority for local residents than those who chimed in online. Half of locals also supported the development of minority-owned businesses, and two-thirds prioritized building a grocery store.

One thing locals didn't want? Market-rate housing. Eighty-three percent of mail survey responders didn't include it in their land allocations, and 75 percent of those surveyed online didn't, either.

Also, there was a "comments" section.

Most responses did seem to be in good faith, if you a exclude one mention of City Councilmember Chris Herndon being a "clown and a disgrace to this neighborhood" on page 82.

A few pages later, when asking residents what uses and services might help the neighborhood, someone floated the idea of a "BDSM dungeon," later going on to answer a question on page 97 about how much of the space should be allocated for this at "100 percent" -- meaning the site would be 155 acres of dungeon.

Another interesting portion of the survey discussed how residents like to stay informed. I was very happy to see Denverite listed alongside esteemed names like "Avian powered post" and "Don't talk to me."

There was a ray of sunshine on page 150 when somebody (I personally enjoy picturing a gentle, grandmotherly type) had this to say in the additional comments: "Best of luck and God's blessings to those who are making the decision."

Yes, best of luck to you.

Editor's note: We included more details about the poll.

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