Plans appear scrapped for 37-story tower in downtown Denver

Plans for a 37-story residential tower along Larimer Street and Speer Boulevard have come to a halt, according to the property owner, who said the development firm has terminated its agreement for the site.

Texas-based Kairoi Residential filed a concept plan two years ago for a 37-story tower called Bell Tower with 139 residential units. Buzz Geller, managing partner at Paradise Land Co., owns the property, currently a parking lot, and said he’s been working with Kairoi for the past five years on the project. 

Geller said Kairoi was originally under contract to purchase the property, which is bordered by Market Street to the north, Speer Boulevard to the west, Larimer Street to the south and Cherry Creek to the east. However, Kairoi approached him later about doing a ground lease for the property rather than a purchase in order to cut costs on the project. Geller negotiated a ground lease with Kairoi about two years ago. 

According to Geller, issues started to surface about three months ago, when Kairoi asked for an extension, and Geller granted it. 

“The reason for their extension is the fact that the project was considerably underwater. Costs had gone up about 40% from the time they made their submittal,” Geller said. 

Kairoi then asked for another extension, and Geller said he saw the writing on the wall: The project was getting too expensive for Kairoi to compete profitably. 

He said he’s still on good terms with Kairoi, but “money is money. If you can’t make money, you’ve got to step away from the deal.”

Kairoi, which has offices in Denver and Austin in addition to its San Antonio headquarters, did not respond for comment. 

Geller said Kairoi “worked really hard” and has paid his firm approximately $1 million between the ground lease and original purchase contract, and has spent even more than that on other aspects of the development. 

“I have sympathy … but you’re not going to build it if you can’t build it profitably,” Geller said. 

Now, Geller is marketing the land on his website once again, asking $35 million for the Bell Tower site and $30 million for the other parking lot just to the east of it, but is willing to negotiate with developers who may want to pursue a ground lease or other options. While a tower has always been his preferred development on the site, he said eight stories on the site closest to Speer Boulevard site and five stories on the site closest to 14th Street are also options. 

Geller said he has already met with the University of Colorado Denver to talk about potential uses for his property. He recognizes that his parcels are a connecting piece to the Auraria campus — which has a new master plan in the works and new development on the horizon — and the rest of downtown. 

“I want to make sure that the right thing gets built there,” Geller said. 

Civil engineering firm Harris Kocher Smith filed plans with the City and County of Denver, which also named Chicago-based architect firm Valerio Dewalt Train. Other plans have been filed for a tower on the site, including Geller’s own proposal in 2008 to build a 34-story tower designed by Fentress Architects. 

Kairoi is under construction on a 334-unit project at 1150 E. Colfax Ave., a site it purchased for $14.5 million in June 2021. The firm sold an apartment complex in City Park West in 2021 for $88.7 million, according to previous reporting. 

Geller also has a project in the works along East Colfax Avenue, and has sold many downtown parking lots that have become major developments, including the under-construction office tower at 1900 Lawrence St. 

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