Denver nonprofit suing Park Hill golf course developers over clubhouse renovations

A nonprofit organization is suing the real estate companies that own the former Park Hill golf course in northeast Denver because the organization says it paid almost $200,000 to update the course’s clubhouse before the developers backed out of an agreement to modify the nonprofit’s lease there.

The Sisters of Color United for Education calls itself Colorado’s oldest “Promotora” or community health worker program. It offers people counseling, mental health services and other support, executive director Adrienna Corrales Lujan said.

In early 2021, the organization, which also focuses on community development work, signed a three-year lease with the Holleran Group for most of the space within the Park Hill golf course clubhouse at  4141 E. 35th Ave. Per the lawsuit that the organization filed on May 11, the lease was for three years with monthly rents increasing from $30,000 in Year 1 to $42,000 in Year 3.

But the building was not ready for Sisters of Color’s use, Lujan said.

“It needed a lot of repairs,” Lujan said. “It was pretty dirty and smelled funny.”

Holleran Group representatives approached the nonprofit about paying advanced rent to fund upgrades to the building. Holleran promised to modify the lease to reflect that once the cost of the work was determined, the lawsuit says.

Between February and May of 2021, Holleran billed the organization $149,584.50 for the work on the building and the nonprofit paid more than $46,000 to third-party vendors and contractors for services and materials at the building, the suit claims.

Discussion on lease revisions turned sour when Holleran made demands to have access to more space within the building and limit the amount of time Sisters of Color could use it, the suit says. The nonprofit asked for its advanced rent payments back but Holleran wanted to pay the money back over two years and classify it as charitable donations. That’s when Sisters of Color decided to turn to litigation, the suit claims

“As a result of Defendants’ actions, Sisters of Color was prevented from using the (clubhouse) despite paying almost $200,000.00 for improvements to the Clubhouse — improvements that primarily benefited (the developers),” the suit says.

Holleran is partnering with Westside Investment Partners, the development company that bought the 155-acre, now-defunct golf course for $24 million in 2019. While the Sisters of Color primarily dealt with Holleran, Westside officials were aware of the lease negotiations, the suit claims.

“Due to current litigation, there is no comment,” Bill Rigler, a spokesman for Westside said Wednesday. The Holleran Group also declined to comment on the suit.

The golf course is subject to a city-owned conservation easement and a voter-approved measure that gives the city’s electorate final say on if that easement will be lifted. That matter could be back before voters as early as the city’s April election.

Westside has been working with the city planning department since early 2021 to gather community input and craft a long-range planning document for the course. The plan that process has produced calls for thousands of units of housing and significant commercial space to be built there while maintaining 100 acres as parks and open space.

A draft of the long-range plan was scheduled to be voted on by the Denver Planning Board on Wednesday afternoon. The Sisters of Color publicized the lawsuit this week to highlight the organization’s negative experience with the developers who soon may be entering into agreements with other groups in relation to the property.

“We wanted to be on the ground floor of the potential redevelopment of the golf course and really make sure the community was involved in that process,” Lujan said of the Sisters of Color’s decision to rent there. “Now we would just like to have some resolution so we can have a community space for people that do authentic and loving engagement with people.”

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