Diverse Housing Choices, Parkland Can Coexist
By Kenneth Ho, For the GPHN
I am writing to respond to the opinion piece about the Park Hill Golf Course land, “The Case for Parks,” which appeared in the April issue.
SOS Denver’s Claim: “There are large areas of underutilized lands in the northeast section of the city, very near the PHGC site, that are much better candidates to convert to housing and other amenities…”
Our position: A review of “underutilized land,” most of which is industrially zoned, near the golf course shows price points that well exceed what affordable housing developers can pay. A large percentage of the Park Hill Golf Course (PHGC) is within a 10-minute walk of the A-Line and busy RTD bus routes that connect to downtown and the airport. We need to place housing, especially affordable housing, in these areas because it is more sustainable than pushing them further east and provides housing close to amenities and transit rather than in an industrial area.
SOS Denver’s Claim: SOS seems to imply that new development on the PHGC will not include any park space.
Our position: Westside has committed to providing at least 60 acres for a large park on the site. We would like to engage the community to discuss what amenities they want this park to include, how it will be programmed, where it will be located on the site and how best to build and maintain it – all of which will determine its final size and configuration. A highly-amentized park of this size would typically cost $60 million to build and $3 million annually to maintain.
SOS Denver’s Claim: “The northern (and western) neighborhoods of Denver have higher concentrations of ethnic and racial diversity, lack of car access, lowest incomes, and highest levels of obesity and chronic disease.”
Our position: We agree, but SOS’s conclusion that a 155-acre park will address these issues is patently false. The communities around the golf course – Northeast Park Hill, Elyria-Swansea, Clayton and Skyland – are vulnerable to displacement and need affordable housing and workforce development opportunities. Parks are not a silver bullet for previously underserved communities, and in fact parks have the potential to cause gentrification.
SOS Denver’s Claim: “With their trees and vegetation, parks act as the lungs of the city, reducing pollution as they cool the air and combatting the overheating caused by the devastating phenomenon of climate change.”
Our position: We agree parks are important, but it is the tree canopy that combats the “heat island effect.” In fact, the number one generator of greenhouse gases is transportation. The recent economic disruption has shown the best way for us to combat global warming is to decrease our driving and our dependence on the automobile. We need to be able to manage growth in a sustainable way by concentrating development close to our transit resources.
SOS Denver’s Claim: “Open space is developed into impervious surfaces such as those planned for Loretto Heights and Elitch Gardens.”
Our position: SOS is equating “impervious surfaces” with development and implies that all open space is good. Elitch Gardens is currently mostly asphalt parking lots that, while open, are not good for the environment. With Denver’s green roof initiative, the proposed Elitch’s redevelopment will decrease the heat island effect and will create 27 acres of waterside parks and open space. The PHGC is not a park, it is a golf course that uses 106 million gallons of water a year, three tons of fertilizer and provides access only to those who pay a greens fee.
Westside looks forward to engaging the community in discussions as part of a City-led Small Area Plan process to discuss the future of this site. We are saddened to see Save Open Space Denver seeking to mute the voice of the community by demanding that the City not pursue a community process to discuss the future of this land (see last month’s letter to the editor from Imam Ali). Westside stands ready to engage in this process and we hope to turn this failing golf course into a neighborhood that will support the needs of the surrounding community, including diverse housing choices, at least 60 acres of public park and services and amenities needed by the community.
If you have questions or comments about our plans please go to www.parkhillgolfcoursereimagined.info.
Kenneth Ho is a principal in the development group Westside Investment Partners, Inc. He lives in Stapleton. The opinion piece that Mr. Ho references can be read online here.