Ex-Lawmakers, Socialist City Councilmember Fight Putting New Housing on Shuttered Denver Golf Course
As housing costs mount in cities across the country, an increasingly popular idea is converting urban golf courses into new homes. On paper, it seems like a great plan.
Golf courses often take up a tremendous amount of prime real estate for a sport only few people play. Meanwhile, developers and policy makers alike are keen to site new housing on land that doesn’t involve the expensive and often politically fraught prospect of tearing down existing homes or businesses.
But the idea of repurposing putting greens for people is easier said than done, as evidenced by a bitter, years-long battle over the redevelopment of a private golf course in Denver, Colorado.
In Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, sits a shuttered 155-acre private 18-hole golf course that hasn’t had a game played on it since 2018. The owner of the site, real estate company Westside, would like to turn the disused course into a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood featuring thousands of new homes, businesses, and an 80-acre public park.
Doing so, they say, will help ease Denver’s ease mounting housing affordability pressures while also gifting the city what would be Denver’s fourth largest park. One 2022 report found that the Denver metro area had produced 69,000 fewer units than it needed.
“We have an actual plan with clarity around what we’re going to do and commitments in terms of community benefits and a financing mechanism to do that,” says Kenneth Ho, a principal at Westside.
It’s a plan that’s won the support of local YIMBY activists, affordable housing developers like Habitat for Humanity, and a majority of the Denver City Council.
“It’s an abandoned golf course right now,” says Tobin Stone, an activist with the housing advocacy YIMBY Denver. “The working class cannot afford to live in Denver right now. The best thing we can do is approve every big development that comes before us.”
But not everyone is so keen on big development.
Opposing Westside’s project is a motley crew of neighborhood activists, former Democratic lawmakers, and Denver’s one socialist city councilmember. All are fighting tooth and nail to stop new housing from popping up on the site. Instead, they’re demanding that all the golf course land, instead of a mere majority of it, remain as open space.
“The environmental impact of developing on green space instead of walking across the street and developing those hundreds of acres made no sense whatsoever,” Harry Doby, who resides near the Park Hill site and is an activist with the group Save Open Spaces (SOS) Denver.
Come April, city voters will decide in a referendum whether the Park Hill golf course will be redeveloped into homes and businesses, or if it remains a disused golf course.
Supporters and opponents are both hoping it will be the last word in a fight over the golf course’s future that’s been raging since 2019.
It was that year that Westside purchased the property. The plan had always been to transform the site into a mixed-use development in a rapidly growing area of Denver. Over the course of the next three years, it worked closely with the city government to hash out a detailed development plan for the site.
Their vision is to turn 55 acres of
Article from Reason.com