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BUILD ON IT: Don’t Shut The Doors To Newcomers

Balance Green Space With Housing At Park Hill Golf Course

By Andrew Sense

Special to the GPHN

At the annual meeting of the Greater Park Hill Community on Oct. 7, the theme of the night was Park Hill’s history of inclusivity. Dick Young’s keynote address provided a brief history of the practice of red-lining in Denver, and on how some white activists in South Park Hill in the 1960s fought to welcome black neighbors.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot to be proud of. But Park Hill is no longer inclusive, and neighborhood concerns about the need for open green space versus the need for housing may make our beautiful neighborhood even less accessible.

There are currently no plans to sell off parts of the Park Hill Golf Course to developers, but neighbors are already gearing up to oppose any changes to that property. In the midst of Denver’s housing crisis, this course of action is mean-spirited and exclusionary.

The position the neighborhood needs to take is that any development of the Park Hill Golf Course needs to 1. Be consistent with Transit Adjacent Development; 2. Include as much affordable housing as possible in a mixed-use form; and 3. Strike an appropriate balance between housing and green space.

An unwillingness to embrace new housing opportunities effectively shuts the door to anybody except those who can afford to pay. At the end of the community meeting, a neighbor pointed out that because of the A-line and the 40th and Colorado station, developers are salivating at the opportunity to turn the Park Hill Golf Course into mixed-use housing. They are. And we need to welcome them. The 40th and Colorado station presents an important housing opportunity because of its proximity to legitimate transit with both the light rail station and a bus route along Colorado Boulevard that features frequent and reliable service.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments projects that Denver will be home to 300,000 new residents by 2040. This means that all neighborhoods have to absorb some of those new people and neighborhoods have to find a way to absorb them sustainably. There is no better place to add housing opportunities than near transit hubs like the 40th and Colorado station.

It sometimes seems that concerns about Denver’s growth often boil down to a failure of imagination. We can’t imagine a life in which we don’t have to depend as much on our personal vehicles. Indeed, the neighbor who was urging GPHC to take a hard line against any development of this space asked attendees to consider how bad traffic on Colorado Boulevard is now and how bad it would be with 7,000 new residents living there. Heads nodded in agreement and people grimaced at the thought.

The problem, (or the opportunity), is that those 7000 new residents are coming, along with 293,000 of their fellows. If we keep shutting doors in Denver, those folks will have to sprawl out to the suburbs where their only mobility option will be their personal vehicles, which they will then drive, through our neighborhoods, to their jobs in the city.

The question isn’t how bad traffic will be if 7,000 new residents find a home near the 40th and Colorado Station. The question is how bad traffic will be if they don’t.

Many people at the GPHC meeting expressed concern about the changes our neighborhood has seen and the gentrification that has taken place. One of the primary drivers of gentrification is not enough housing stock in all neighborhoods. If Park Hill shuts to door to housing opportunities in our neighborhood, where housing makes sense and transit is available, there are consequences for that. We will be contributing to the gentrification of other neighborhoods without even leaving our own.

If residents of Park Hill want to continue to perceive our neighborhood to be welcoming and sustainable though, we should be fighting for mixed-use, transit-adjacent, multi-family housing. Green space obviously matters, but instead of identifying a large plot of land and declaring that it should remain only green space in perpetuity, the discussion we need to be having should be about the role green space plays within a multi-use neighborhood. Public green space matters. Denver needs housing. Neighbors and organizations in Park Hill should fight for both.

Andrew Sense is a high school English teacher who lives in Park Hill. He is co-chair of the City Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee, serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and is a member of the Blueprint Denver Task Force.

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