In recent weeks, much talk was made about whether real-estate developer Buzz Geller would enter the crowded Denver mayoral race. Such a development would have been interesting: Not only is Geller more conservative than his competition, but he also has a tendency to speak his mind.
And Geller did seriously consider running. In fact, as he told Westword last week, the state Republican Party approached him in September and promised to provide 55,000 registered Republican Denverites to support his campaign. (Geller is registered as an independent, and in this city, that's likely as far right as any mayoral candidate could be and still have a chance.)
Geller even developed a stump speech calling for a balanced city budget and an aggressive marketing program. But in the end, he decided he wasn't cut out for campaigning. "I think I'd be fine as mayor, but the political gauntlet you have to run through, I don't think I have the temperament for," he says.
Plus, he has other matters to consider — such as the city's apparent plan to grab a sizable chunk of one of his properties, a fact he learned last week from reading the city-development blog DenverUrbanism.com.
The blog reported on a proposed reconstruction and streetscaping project at the intersection of Welton Street and Colfax Avenue, a bond-funded improvement that will make the busy crossing more pedestrian-friendly. But according to the mock-up created by DenverUrbanism.com, the changes will also involve running a street through the corner of Geller's property there.
"This was the first time I'd heard about this," says Geller. "It's foolish and rude, and not open and transparent. I shouldn't have to find out from a blog."
While the property is currently a surface lot, Geller says he's been planning for years to build a mid-rise hotel there with parking underneath. But with the changes the city has proposed, Geller says the land would be rendered largely unusable. As he puts it, "Pretty much all that would then be put on that property is a parking lot, and that certainly is not what we want."
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But Daelene Mix, the city's Public Works department spokeswoman, says the city hasn't notified Geller about the intersection work because the project is still being designed; and since it involves federal funding, it needs to be approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation first. "He will definitely be contacted regarding any potential land acquisition once the design is complete and approved by CDOT," says Mix. "And an appraisal of the land will be conducted to determine its estimated value."
It sounds like that appraisal might be pricey. "If they want this land, fine, here is the fair market value of it, and you have to take the whole site, and that is going to be very expensive," says Geller, noting that his last appraisal came in at around $4 million. In other words, Geller won't be as willing to negotiate the sort of cooperative land deal that allowed the city to acquire some of his land downtown in order to build the new justice center.
Still, Geller is willing to work with City Hall. In fact, he has suggested to the current mayoral front-runners that he'd like to see 12,000 to 15,000 new residents living in downtown proper (and not just LoDo), creating a mixed-use landscape that would change Denver into a "24-hour city."
Who knows? Even if he doesn't run for mayor, Geller may get his way.