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Bell Tower site under contract

Bell Tower
Buzz Geller has placed the site at Speer and Larimer, which would have been home to the Bell Tower, under contract.

Bell Tower, if it had been built, arguably would have been the most architecturally unique tower ever to have graced Denver’s skyline.

“The striking design and highly visible location will make it an instant landmark,” Ken Schroeppel, the creator of DenverInfill.com, told me in February 2009, when I was the real estate editor of the Rocky Mountain News.

Buzz Geller, the owner of the “gateway-to-downtown-Denver” site at Speer Boulevard and Larimer Street where he planned to develop the 34-story, $250 million Bell Tower, had this to say this about the tower in 2008: “It has to be as edgy as possible.”

Alas, the mixed-use Bell Tower with office space and high-end condominiums, designed by Fentress Architects, was never built. (It appropriately was called Bell Tower because the site is next to Denver’s original city hall, which included a bell tower.)

Bell Tower

Shown is the Bell Tower site that Buzz Geller has under contract to an unidentified buyer.

Bell Tower was one of the victims of the commercial real estate quicksand that swallowed so many development ideas during the Great Recession.

Now, almost a decade since the Bell Tower was put on the shelf, Geller has the 65,000-square-foot site under contract.

Geller, principal of the Paradise Land Co., also has another high-profile downtown property at California and 17th streets under contract to a different buyer. That parcel was to have been the site of a 1,000-foot tower proposed by a New York City developer. After that highly publicized deal cratered, Geller put it under a contract to a different, highly qualified buyer.

Because of a nondisclosure agreement, Geller, principal of Paradise Land Co., is limited about what he can say about either of the recent deals.

“I can say they are under contract and that is about it,” Geller said.

On Paradise Land Co.’s website, Geller describes the former Bell Tower site as a $50 million parcel. The site allows up to 400,000 sf of new development. Permitted uses include retail, office, a hotel, residential and a parking lot. The maximum height limit is 375 feet.

Geller told me that he thinks the new building on the site could very well be as stunning and attractive as what he proposed a decade ago with Bell Tower.

Bell Tower

Bell Tower would have been an iconic addition to Denver’s skyline. Buzz Geller now has the site along Speer at Larimer Street under contract to a highly qualified, yet unidentified buyer.

“I think it will be nice,” Geller said. “I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think it will look like what I planned. But I think the city and the LDDR (Lower Downtown Design Review Board) will demand that it is a significant, beautiful building.”

And while there technically is ”no height limit” at the other site along California Street, Geller doesn’t think the new buyer will build a 1,000-foot tower on the site, like New York-based Greenwich Realty Capital proposed.

Denver’s Community and Planning has yet to receive any new development plans either for the Bell Tower site or the California Street site at 1650 17th St.

If you scratch the surface of just about any deal, there is a story behind it. The Rebchook Real Estate Corner looks at the what and who that make the Colorado commercial real estate industry spin every Tuesday and Thursday online at CREJ.com. The people behind the deals are passionate about what they do, whether they focus on offices, apartments, industrial, retail, land or lending. They also are passionate about their clients. Given the cyclical nature of commercial real estate, those who prosper in it have plenty of stories to tell. I hope to share them with you. 

This column includes news stories, in-depth looks at deals, profiles, Q&As and pieces on the latest trends. Contact John with story tips at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…