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Fairfax Land Swap Deal Heats Up

by Cara DeGette

A proposed land swap that would move a proposed neighborhood park inside a high-end development project at 28th and Fairfax has drawn the ire of neighbors who say they were not properly notified of the plan and also fear gentrification of the neighborhood.

In response to heated pushback during the September Greater Park Hill Community meeting, city Councilman Chris Herndon scheduled an Oct. 18 session at Stedman Elementary School.

The city paid mediator Steve Charbonneau to facilitate. Also presenting were Ben Maxwell, the developer of the project, called Park Hill Commons, and Denver deputy parks manager Scott Gilmore.

As part of the project, Maxwell wants to swap the land where the former Xcel power plant was on the west side of Fairfax (which was previously identified by the city as a future park). In exchange for that land, he wants to build a pocket park within his commercial and residential development project on the east side of the street. He would keep the west side property for future development.

Maxwell has developed design plans for what the park would look like, including a water feature, a climbing wall, planters and a grassy area. The park would be flanked by restaurants on either side, with patios looking out into the park. In addition to building the park, the developer has agreed to maintain it.

Gilmore, of the Parks and Recreation department, is a strong proponent of the swap, and maintains the city would not be able to find the funds to develop the Xcel site anytime soon.  Herndon has also said he supports the swap.

The Oct. 18 meeting was attended by about 85 people. Timor Goldstein, who lives in Park Hill, said he also owns a rental property a block away from 28th and Fairfax. He said he strongly supports the swap. “It’s a win-win for both sides,” he said.

Numerous people spoke in opposition. Many, including longtime black residents of the neighborhood, said they don’t think they would feel welcome in a park that is in the middle of a high-end commercial and residential project. Others expressed frustration that they had not been notified about the development plan or the land swap. Still others said they fear the neighborhood will be compromised, and that gentrification will force out longtime neighbors.

“I am concerned about inclusion,” said Shanta Harrison, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years. “It seems more of a plaza for the development, not a park.”

The city council will have to give final approval on the proposed land swap.

Note: If you would like to express your views on the proposed land swap, email editor@greaterparkhill.org.


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