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8811 East Hampden Ave.,
Suite 104 
Denver, CO 80231

  • Phill Foster and Company

    Industrial land and building experience

  • Phill Foster and Company

    Subsurface mineral rights

  • Phill Foster and Company

    Water rights uses and sand and gravel

  • Phill Foster and Company

    Over 40 years office leasing experience

  • Phill Foster and Company

    Niobrara shale oil properties

When Times are Good

The Recession sent a lot of people and companies scurrying to figure out what to do and what not to do. Money was all frozen up and many had to close their doors to new ventures no matter what particular industry one was in. The early 2000s recession was a decline in economic activity which mainly occurred in developed countries. The recession affected the European Union during 2000 and 2001 and the United States in 2002 and 2003. According to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions) the recession, as experienced began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, thus extending over 19 months. However, this is about a surviving idea that held its ground and didn’t seem to die that was a holdover from the latter recession. The recession of that period is over, and many parcels of land have been picked up by companies not of the original prospectors but all the same have been being developed many years later, here’s one of them for the downtown Denver commercial real estate market that holds pretty close to its original idea.

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,” wrote one journalist for a local city newspaper in February 2009.

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 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, 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. “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.