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Former mayor Wellington Webb speaks in favor of preserving the conservation easement.
Former mayor Wellington Webb speaks in favor of preserving the conservation easement.
Sara Fleming

Reader: We Want Something Closer to RiNo for Park Hill's Future

"For the past few months, most of the Westword headlines that focus on the Park Hill neighborhood in northeast Denver have centered on a certain 155-acre stretch of land and a seemingly endless trove of historical and legal questions about it," starts Sara Fleming's story from December 26.

Fleming, who has covered Park Hill and the battle over its golf course extensively for Westword since last year, argued in her most recent story that the neighborhood changes are much larger and more complicated than the golf course and its potential development. Gentrification has drastically changed the makeup of the neighborhood, and for some residents, the future of the golf course is tied directly to those changes.

Here's what some readers have to say about the golf course, the neighborhood and development in the area. And Denver in general...

Says Day:

There is only 1 Park Hill, no west, north, south, etc. Been here 51 years, just another way to attempt to put what few remaining black people live here in a place where white people are comfortable with them remaining in the area. Before Park Hill became mostly black, it was pretty much all white...didn't hear back folks complaining when we began to take over the neighborhood in the '60s and '70s, won't hear me bitchin' about it now. Black folks have been selling there homes in Park Hill and moving out for decades. What few remain should make sure they pass the property they own to family; that's the only way to keep what you have. Black people don't buy houses in Park Hill anymore for whatever reason, but the few that remain seem to sell the property they own all the time. For the few remaining black folks, don't trip, the Park Hill soul brotha will remain here until the day I die, and when that day comes, imma pass my property to my daughter. Denver is tryna make Park Hill the new Washington Park...all I can say is, black people, hold on and pass it on to your kids. All you folks tryna take over, won't happen as long as the Park Hill soul brotha is here!

Notes Nick:

As a resident of the “Overlook” just west of the giant fence, me and my family are not looking forward to any development at that location. When we were looking to relocate from Cherry Creek north we wanted to buy a place in a racially diverse area; after two years of looking, we finally found it in north Park Hill. We want our kids to grow up in a diverse place.

With this development, I believe it will stuff pockets of the developer and will not bring amenities to the current residents as Westside promises. The traffic in that area is already bad enough without an arrow to turn on to 35th or left on Colorado from 35th.

I believe that this space would be much better made in to a park and not littered with the same stores you can drive to in 5 minutes, and “affordable housing” which will turn to market rate in a few years. 

Explains Ben:

My wife and I recently purchased a home in NE Park Hill and we have strong opinions about its development. We love being able to be this close to downtown. The fact is that living this close to the city is becoming more and more difficult. I am an RN and a Reservist and my wife is an engineer and we can barely afford it. We understand that change and development is a difficult issue, but we are also extremely excited about the opportunity before the community. As residents, we would live to see Park Hill Golf Course become a wonderful mix of park space (LARGE), retail, restaurants, etc., and it has the opportunity to expand into the nearby industrial area similar to what happened in RiNo. We certainly don't want a bunch of condos or a grocery store or affordable housing. We see this as a huge opportunity to move the neighborhood forward while preserving the character and charm of Denver/Park Hill. We don't want chain restaurants or a strip mall. We want something closer to what RiNo has done... breweries, original restaurants, entertainment, mom and pop shops, cafes, etc.

Just thought we would share our opinion because it seems there is a lot of negativity associated with the word “development,” but we believe that if its done right, everybody benefits.

And then there's this from Tyler:

As a resident of NE Park Hill, a stones throw from the golf course, I've been following this debate over the past year or so. I am in full support of preserving much of the open space but also developing restaurants/breweries/small businesses/grocery store to accent the park. It is the most unique opportunity we have to showcase Denver and greet every new visitor and resident as they enter the city. Residents of this city have been afforded luxuries they never previously had, due to different neighborhoods being developed and thus driving tourism/transplants. To demand your neighborhood be spared because you live there is completely selfish and short-sighted.

Park Hill (which is really three statistical neighborhoods as defined by the U.S. Census: northeast, north and south Park Hill) is experiencing rapid gentrification and displacement, especially impacting African-Americans. The debate over the golf course has brought out tensions over what it means for the community to have a voice in its future.

James Roy II is the executive director of the Park Hill Collective Impact, an organization that aims to help children in the neighborhood thrive. Roy helped organize a community meeting on Monday, December 9, at the Hope Center to discuss how to engage Park Hill residents who may not have their voices heard. “There’s obviously some strong opinions being expressed on open space. I think that’s valid,” he says. But, he continues, “there should be an effort to really understand what the community that has been most marginalized and is closest to the golf course would actually think.”

The golf course sits squarely in northeast Park Hill, the historically black part of the neighborhood. So far, Save Open Space (SOS) Denver has been the loudest grassroots group taking a side on the course, opposing any development on the land. But many of its members are not from the immediately proximate neighborhood, leading some northeast Park Hill community leaders to distrust SOS. Imam Abdur-Ahim Ali is the director of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center, a mosque just a block south of the golf course. "For [SOS Denver] to be where they are and to have this much concern kind of raises your eyebrows," he says.

What do you think about Park Hill? About development in Denver in general? Let us know in a comment or at editorial@westword.com.

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