Denver suspends attempt to purchase Park Hill golf course after trust that owns it faces “unresolved lease issue”

Google Maps Denver was considering a $20.5 million purchase deal for Park Hill Golf Club, in a complex deal that pinned the worth on the 155-acre site’s development prospects.

Denver has suspended a plan to purchase the Park Hill Golf Club from a private trust because of an “unresolved lease issue” with the course’s operator, a public works spokeswoman confirmed to The Denver Post.

But the city isn’t abandoning the plan entirely — officials still will pursue rights to use a portion of the course as a stormwater detention area as part of a wide-ranging northeast Denver drainage plan, said Nancy Kuhn, the communications director for Denver Public Works.

The city and Clayton Early Learning, an education nonprofit that manages the George W. Clayton Trust, announced in September that amid declining golf revenues that risk the nonprofit’s financial security, Denver would acquire the 155-acre golf course as officials and community advocates explored open-space and development prospects on the land.

“Unfortunately, we are now setting that proposal aside because of an unresolved lease issue between Clayton and its golf course operator, Arcis,” Kuhn told The Post late Thursday. “The city will proceed toward acquiring only the property it needs for its stormwater detention project.”

The base value of the proposed 30-year purchase agreement was $20.5 million, but it could have brought upwards of $24 million to Clayton depending on the site’s development potential and priorities set by the city.

In early October, a city council committee considered that sale proposal. But since several council members’ questions about its terms were unresolved, Evan Dreyer, Mayor Michael Hancock’s deputy chief of staff, asked the committee to hold the issue over instead of advancing it to the council floor.

The issue with the golf course’s operator has thrown an unexpected wrench into the plan.

Arcis was losing money on golf course operations at Park Hill and had been expected to pull out when its lease with Clayton ends in late 2018, according to prior public comments by Charlotte Brantley, Clayton Early Learning’s president and CEO.

Kuhn did not elaborate on the lease issue, beyond saying that the pause in consideration of the city’s proposal gives Arcis “time to decide if it wants to renew its golf course lease or not.” For now, she said, the city’s need to begin preparations for the stormwater drainage project prompted city officials to shift gears and narrow their approach to acquiring land rights.

The Post has reached out to a Clayton representative with questions about Arcis’ involvement and Clayton’s evolving plans.

Denver Public Works for more than two years has been eyeing the northeast corner of the golf course for the detention area, as part of the controversial Platte to Park Hill drainage plan.

Kuhn said the new approach that city officials will pursue involves obtaining the rights to up to 90 acres of the course — just over half — for the detention area’s construction starting in early 2019. Officials plan to present a land-rights acquisition ordinance to a City Council committee next month.

Public works officials have said the detention area itself requires up to 25 acres, but the city will need to shut down more of the golf course during construction as the land in that area is regraded to capture runoff during and after major storms.

Kuhn wrote in an email that the new council proposal “will seek authority to acquire needed property interests, including a permanent easement for water detention and temporary easement for construction/staging.”

She did not provide details about how much the city expects to pay for those easements or what the terms would be.

The city previously placed an open-space easement on the golf course in the 1990s, and that was among several legal entanglements Denver has had with the trust going back to 1899.

This developing story will be updated.

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