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Oneida Park Getting A Facelift

Developer Envisions ‘Old South Gaylord’; Plans Include 5,000 Sq. Ft. Restaurant; Critics Cite Lack Of Parking

Compiled by Cara DeGette

GPHN Editor

The following is a synopsis of what was discussed on May 6 during the monthly meeting of the Greater Park Hill Community, Inc.  The next community meeting is Thursday, June 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at 2823 Fairfax St. It is free and open to the public, and everyone is welcome.

The new owner of the Oneida Park Center says he envisions transforming the business block in the mold of an Old South Gaylord or Old South Pearl Street development – references to the wildly successful and highly congested business blocks in the Washington Park neighborhood southwest of Park Hill.

First-time developer Todd Snyder and partner Rick Firmine, have purchased all of the buildings on the Oneida Street business block between 22nd and 23rd avenues in east Park Hill, save for the Park Hill Motors building on the north end of the block.

Snyder, who is also a commercial real estate broker, detailed his vision for the properties during the May Greater Park Hill Community meeting and in a subsequent newspaper interview.

Snyder does not plan to tear down any of the buildings on the block. He does, however, plan to repaint them and update the colors – currently light peach with turquoise awnings. Snyder said he also plans to repair the iconic Oneida Park Center sign that stands sentinel over the block.

The greatest change, which will likely have the biggest impact on the surrounding neighborhood, is at 22nd Avenue on the southwest side of the block. Currently, a corner grocery store, liquor store and the Tiger Point of Sales business are in operation there.

Snyder and his partner envision a 5,000 square foot restaurant at the corner of 22nd and Oneida. The liquor store will move to the north end of the block, at 23rd Avenue. As of press time, it is unclear whether the corner store will move to another storefront on the block.

For comparison purposes, a 5,000-square restaurant would be more than twice the size of Desmond, the restaurant across the street. The South Philly Cheese Steak restaurant is also across the street. Both have several remaining years on their leases. In addition, Snyder is also working to incorporate an ice cream shop and a coffee shop or diner on the southwest side of the block, near the Spicy Thai II restaurant, which will also remain. Anchoring the restaurants would be a courtyard – which is currently a paved lot used for customer and tenant parking.

“The courtyard will more often then not serve as an outdoor gathering spot, a neighborhood gathering spot.” Snyder said. It would be designed to serve as a space where kids can play and run around, and also be host to farmers markets and occasional weekend festivals, he said. The timeframe for the courtyard to be built and open for business is early next year, he said.

Snyder acknowledges that several parking spaces will be eliminated with the installation of a courtyard, but he maintains that there is room for a net gain of parking spots across the street. In addition, he and his partner plan to install bike racks. However, there is currently no plan for any substantial increases for parking on this business block that already is often filled to capacity.

Tony Uva, the owner of Allegra’s Pizza on Oneida, says neighbors in the surrounding area are likely in for a surprise.

“When the neighborhood finds out, there is going to be a pretty big outcry,” Uva predicted of the parking situation. “There will be cars all over the neighborhood.”

During the community meeting, Uva challenged the claim that all tenants were copacetic with the changes and are being taken care of. His lease, he said, is up next year. He had been interested in expanding to an open space next door to his restaurant but was informed his lease would not be renewed. In a subsequent interview, Uva said that he is pursuing other possibilities, including opening an Allegra’s Pizza on 28th and Fairfax Street, as part of the new Park Hill Commons development on that block.

The Oneida Park Center currently has a 20 percent vacancy rate. In addition to Al- legra’s Pizza likely moving, the owners of the laundromat on 23rd Avenue have not renewed their lease. Park Hill Vet, which is on the west side of the street, is planning to expand its space. On the east side of Oneida, Love Fashion Nails, as well as a hair salon, have at least two years left on their leases.

Snyder confirmed that rents will increase for new and renewing tenants; however, he says rents will be “significantly” below market. In addition, he and his partner are not interested in pursuing chain or corporate-owned businesses; they prefer independents that will assimilate with the neighborhood. “We don’t want to come in and turn it into a Highlands Ranch, we want everyone in the neighborhood to come and enjoy this place.”

Park Hill Golf Course Update

Charlotte Brantley, president and CEO of Clayton Early Learning, provided background and an overview about the status of the Park Hill Golf Course. Through its foundation, since the late 1800s Clayton Early Learning has owned the 155-acre chunk of land at 35th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard stretching east and north to Interstate 70. (The Park Hill Golf Course should not be confused with the nearby City Park Golf Course, across the street from the Denver Zoo and City Park, and which is owned by the City and County of Denver.) The lease is up on the Park Hill Golf Course next year. The course is not currently profitable, and so the foundation board is reaching out to the surrounding community to help determine the future of the property.

“I’m walking around with a great big bucket, and I need members of the community to be tossing in as many ideas as possible,” Brantley said. “This is a big deal, a once-in-a-century thing to be working on. There are people who would love for it to stay a golf course or big open space.” Others have expressed interest in having a grocery store in the area, and have suggested building affordable housing, or a mixed-use development.

Brantley said the Clayton foundation is committed to seeking as much community input, and listen to all ideas. “If you could wave a wand over 155 acres, what would you have there?” she asked.

Brantley said a decision has not been made about whether to sell the land, or to lease it. In April the INC, a consortium of neighborhood organizations in Denver, passed a resolution urging the city to purchase the land for open space.

At the May GPHC meeting, several people commented, including one audience member who advised Brantley to hire a company to do a feasibility study to determine the highest and best use of the property. People are urged to fill out a survey with their preferences, at futureofparkhillgolfcourse.com.

Youth Mentors Needed

Natalie Kaiser from Aurora Youth Options delivered a presentation about her organization’s mentoring program for youth. One in three young people are growing up without a mentor in Aurora schools, and they need people who can give them advice on life skills. Mentors are matched up with individual middle and high school students and are asked for at least a one-year commitment. Mentors and their mentees get together twice a month and do all types of activities, from going to the movies, to a Rockies game, a museum or the zoo. Aurora Youth Options covers the costs. “We never want there to be a financial barrier,” Kaiser said. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, call 303-617-2388.

Park Hill Walking Tour

Melissa Hart and Beth Bean identified some of the biggest challenges in Denver, including homelessness, race relations, mental and behavioral health issues, and transportation. Bean, who serves as the human relations chair of GPHC, Inc., and Hart, who recently moved back to the neighborhood after growing up here, are moving forward with an idea for a Park Hill Walking Tour to help people understand the history of the neighborhood from a race relations perspective.

They are seeking individuals who have lived in the neighborhood for many years to share their personal stories. Audience members advised them to research various walking tour apps that have already been developed to assist them in crafting a localized walking tour.

GPHC, Inc. Update

Greater Park Hill Community, Inc., Executive Director Sierra Fleenor provided an update on programs sponsored by the registered neighborhood organization. In April the food pantry served 27 households, with 55 individuals. Of those, 44 percent were youth or seniors over 65.

The weekend food program provided meals to 163 students at Smith Elementary, Roots Elementary and via the Boys & Girls Club. The free farm stand officially kicks off for the summer on June 5.

Every Monday, fresh veggies will be available at the sidewalk farm stand, at 2823 Fairfax St. Fleenor urged people to stop by to pick up a few vegetables while also donating their extra produce to the farm stand. Finally, Fleenor noted that Greater Park Hill is applying for official sustainable neighborhood status, and urged residents to sign petitions to submit with the application by the end of May.

District 2 Police Report

Denver Police Community Resource Officer Sharon Avandaño provided an update on crime and safety-related issues in Park Hill. With summer months approaching, Avandaño advised people to keep their doors and windows locked at night and remind their neighbors to do the same. Also, she said, residents should remember to lock their cars and not leave valuables in their vehicles.

The Denver Police Department is migrating its communications to its official Facebook page for information citywide. Items will no longer be posted on the NextDoor social media site.

People are encouraged to report any suspicious activity at the non-emergency dispatch number, 720-913-2000, and to reserve 9-1-1 calls for crimes that in progress. Follow the DPD on Twitter @DenverPolice.


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