By: Norman Harris and Ty Hubbard, The Holleran Group
Northeast Park Hill’s history is rich with culture, family-owned restaurants, and local youth sports, especially within the Black community.
In the past several decades, however, the neighborhood has faced its challenges. Economic disinvestment has forced countless families to leave and left remaining families without basic services and amenities. This has resulted in displacement, lower educational outcomes, fewer job opportunities, a lack of access to healthy foods, and one of the highest rates of youth gun violence in the Denver Metro Area.
In 1970, 88% of the neighbors were Black. Now less than 43% of the residents in Northeast Park Hill are Black. The average annual income in the neighborhood is around $58,000 compared to almost double that in nearby North Park Hill and South Park Hill. The cultural heritage of Northeast Park Hill is slowly disappearing as more and more Black families are displaced due to a lack of affordable housing.
The neighborhood spans from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. north to Interstate 70 and from Colorado Blvd. east to Quebec Street. It is a food desert, which is defined as communities in urban areas that are more than one mile from a supermarket where they can access fresh, healthy food. The neighborhood lost its grocery store when the Dahlia Shopping Center, once one of the largest Black-owned shopping centers in the country, began to suffer and was eventually redeveloped after decades into affordable senior housing with the help of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.
In addition, the 2019 Denver Public Health’s Youth Gun Violence Report, showed the Northeast Park Hill neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of youth gun violence in the Denver Metro Area. The report identifies lack of economic opportunity, high levels of poverty and lack of community connections as contributing factors to this violence.
We believe that the 155-acre property known as the Park Hill Golf Course could be a unique opportunity to address many of the needs of Northeast Park Hill residents. The property is large enough to provide both the open space and the economic, housing, and lifestyle opportunities that can empower our Black community.
We recognize that there are people that want the area to become a 155-acre park. We understand the need for parkland in a growing city and the positive effects open space has on public health. However, we also recognize the privilege inherent in demanding that it be placed in a community with so many other needs that have a direct impact on public health like access to healthy food, affordable housing and economic opportunity.
As community members and co-developers of the Park Hill Golf Course, we believe the dialog on environmental equity that needs to take place in Northeast Park Hill is bigger than just open space. There is room for balance, and we need to address climate change as an intersectional issue. We also need to recognize the research that shows the negative impacts that green gentrification can have on low-income communities.
As a social enterprise, we believe everything we do should lead and empower communities to create solutions for sustainable wealth. And as developers, we believe development can be environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous if done through asset-based community development.
We need to focus on the people, not the property, and we need to make sure that the most recent voices or those that come from a privileged position are not the loudest voices. Equity demands that we amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized in the past.
That is exactly why we decided to step into our partnership with Westside Investment Partners as co-developers at the Park Hill Golf Course. At the golf course we have enough land to support the needs of the community and create a new regionally sized park. Through asset-based community-led development, we can empower communities to engage and create smart, equitable growth through collaborative urban planning.
In the clubhouse alone, we’ve been honored to connect and support organizations like Sisters of Color United For Education, Bondadosa, and The McBride Impact without even developing the land, but we see a larger opportunity here to help the community at large.
We believe the Park Hill Golf Course project could provide economic revitalization to uplift the Northeast Park Hill community, and we want to involve our community in reimagining what else it could be.
Some have suggested that there are other locations that can be developed, that the neighborhood just needs to wait. But the time is now, and we believe this property can be more than a golf course.
Norman Harris and Ty Hubbard are co-founders of The Holleran Group a collaborative partnership of community-driven African American real estate developers, brokers, financial and community relations professionals.
Link to Original Article: https://www.denverpost.com/2021/03/04/park-hill-golf-club-housing-development-denver/