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Talk of the Neighborhood

Compiled by Cara DeGette, Editor, GPHN

The following is a synopsis of what was discussed during the Nov. 2 Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. monthly meeting. The next community meeting is Thursday, Jan. 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at 2823 Fairfax St. The meetings are free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome.

East Area Plan In The Works

Denver City Planner Curt Upton provided an update on the status of the East Area Plan. The plan includes neighborhoods along Colfax between Colorado Boulevard east to Yosemite, which marks the eastern edge of Denver. In Park Hill, the strip from Colfax north to 23rd Avenue is in the area slated for review. The planning document also includes portions of the Montclair, Hale and East Colfax neighborhoods. Upton indicated the city’s master plan for this area is outdated. So far, 1,400 people have responded to an online survey seeking feedback on what people like and don’t like about the area, what improvements should be highest priority, etc.  The survey is available at Upton said the new plan will take between 12-18 months to complete, and urged citizen input and feedback.

District 2 Police Update

Officer Sharon Aveñado reported that crimes overall in Park Hill are down 15 percent since January. However, property crimes – particularly car theft and theft from cars – are still occurring. Aveñado urges people to keep their cars locked, and their valuables hidden. She also advises people to not keep anything with personal information in the glove box. That includes car registration documents, which can be carried in your wallet. Don’t leave garage openers in cars either, as thieves can potentially gain access to them, as well as to homes if attached. GPHC board member Louis Plachowski inquired about a large electronic sign that has recently been erected on 23rd Avenue just east of Colorado Boulevard warning people to lock their vehicles. Plachowski opined the warning sends the message that Park Hill is a high crime area and doesn’t do much to help property values. Aveñado, who was joined by Lt. Ernie Martinez, said that the signs have resulted in a 50 percent decrease in property crimes over one month’s time, and that similar signs have been installed in other parts of Denver. “There are definitely some bad guys and bad gals out there and we need to get the message out to keep crimes down,” Martinez said.

GPHC Executive Director Update

GPHC Executive Director Sierra Fleenor provided an update on the food pantry and plans for the Thanksgiving meal program. In October, the food pantry provided meals to 67 households and 168 individuals. More than 900 pounds of food was donated to the pantry in October. The Weekend Food Program provided meals to 243 students who attend Park Hill schools.

Fairfax Park Land Swap

GPHC board member Kevin Wiegand introduced a resolution to oppose the city’s proposed land swap of the former Xcel substation at 29th and Fairfax with the developer of the Park Hill Commons residential and commercial development on the other side of the street. As has been detailed in past issues, the city purchased the land from Xcel. In 2015 Parks and Recreation deputy executive director Scott Gilmore told GPHC the city planned to develop the property as a pocket park for the neighborhood. However, last year the developer, HM Capital, contacted Gilmore and City Councilman Chris Herndon with a request to swap the land. In exchange for the property, HM Capital wants to incorporate the park across the street, within his block-long development on the east side of Fairfax. The developer would then use the former Xcel substation land as parking, and for future development. Though the city council still has not voted on the land swap, HM Capital has already developed plans for the park, including a climbing wall, planters, water features, sidewalks and green space.

Herndon and Gilmore have said they support the swap, and Gilmore now says the city could not afford to build a pocket park at the Xcel substation anytime soon. Wiegand, along with other GPHC board members and community advocates, oppose the park being incorporated into the middle of the planned development project and prefer it be built in its original location. The concern is that if it is situated within the development – sandwiched between restaurants, retail, micro-apartments and townhomes – then it will not feel welcoming to nearby residents or like a true neighborhood park.

Wiegand, along with other GPHC board members and residents, have been meeting to discuss how the community could raise the funds to proceed with a simple park, in the style of the popular Turtle Park at 23rd and Dexter St. “The community needs to be involved in the discussion – it’s not the developer’s decision,” Wiegand said. GPHC board member Blair Taylor concurred: “They didn’t ask us if we wanted to give up our park. The city decided this, but the neighborhood should be the ones deciding. We need to get together and get on the same page.” At the end of the presentation, the GPHC board adopted the resolution, with 14 members approving, one opposing, and one abstaining. (The full resolution can be read here.)

District Attorney Update

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dawn Weber provided an update on issues from the district attorney’s office. Under the leadership of DA Beth McCann, who was elected to the office a year ago, several departments have been restructured. McCann’s former opponent, Helen Morgan, is still with the DA’s office and is heading the juvenile and juvenile justice division. Denver currently has seven felony courtrooms, but the tremendous population boom has made it necessary to build out an eighth courtroom, Weber said.

City Park Roundabout

Park Hill resident Andy Sense provided a presentation on changes at City Park Golf Course and how they will impact traffic along 23rd Avenue through City Park. The controversy over the storm retention pond and the removal of hundreds of mature trees have gotten the most attention lately. However, the city’s plans also include moving the entrance to the new golf club to 23rd Avenue, and just north of the existing entrance to the Denver Zoo.

Current plans are to install a traffic light at the intersection. However, Sense is promoting the city consider a roundabout be used to coordinate traffic flowing through the intersection. “We can look at it as an opportunity to do some traffic calming, and make it safer,” Sense said.

After some discussion, the GPHC board voted unanimously to support Board Chair Tracey MacDermott write a letter to the city asking that all viable options, including a roundabout, be considered for that intersection.

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