Denver locks $20.5 million deal to buy Park Hill Golf Club, but its future as open space is unclear
Denver city officials on Thursday announced a $20.5 million deal with a trust that owns the Park Hill Golf Club to buy the 155-acre site, putting to rest some questions about its future.
But others linger, including whether the city will keep all of the site as open space or parkland — or allow development on part of it. It may not remain a golf course, given its owner’s assertions about the contracted operator’s lack of profitability.
Clayton Early Learning, which manages the George W. Clayton Trust, has been seeking to sell the site in a community-engagement process that began last year. The organization long has operated off golf course revenue, and the trust has owned the land since 1899.
Parks advocates have urged city officials to snap up the site to keep it as open space, or perhaps to designate it as a new regional park. Clayton officials had raised the possibility of using some land for affordable housing and retail development.
But city officials long made no commitments, beyond working on plans to use up to 25 acres on the northeast corner of the Park Hill course for a stormwater detention area.
That is one of four key projects in the controversial Platte to Park Hill stormwater drainage plan in northeast Denver — and the one part of the course that is probably guaranteed to remain as open space in some form.
The city plans to tap a wastewater fund that is paying for the drainage projects to cover a $10 million down payment for the property, city finance spokeswoman Courtney Law said. Denver then would pay Clayton $350,000 a year in lease-to-own payments for 30 years, totaling $10.5 million, using its annual capital projects budget.
“The city is pleased to step up to facilitate this balancing effort and wants to see both Clayton and the property continue to serve the residents of Denver,” said Evan Dreyer, a deputy chief of staff to Mayor Michael Hancock, in a comment provided through Law.
A news release issued Thursday evening by Clayton Early Learning says the proposed sale “will allow time for a community visioning process that is currently underway to continue and help ensure both Clayton and the 155-acre property keep serving the residents of Denver.”
Ultimately, if the City Council approves the purchase and public sentiment favors redevelopment, city planners could initiate a master plan process that considers the site’s potential in more detail, the release says.
But when the council considers the purchase next month, it could be met with some controversy from activists with conflicting priorities. Those include parks advocates who have railed against the Platte to Park Hill program’s use of parkland for drainage.
A related project that is set to reconfigure City Park Golf Course to accommodate a detention area on its western third has been challenged in court, with a ruling still pending.
Clayton Early Learning president and CEO Charlotte Brantley has said that the course’s operation was losing money. The lease for its golf course operator is set to expire at the end of 2018.