Business

Buzz Geller on why he's not running for Denver mayor -- and how the city is stealing his land

There's been much talk about real estate developer Buzz Geller entering the crowded mayoral race. Such a development would have been interesting; not only is Geller more conservative than his competition, he also has a tendency to speak his mind. It's not meant to be, though. Here, Geller weighs in on why he's decided not to run, and why he thinks he's the victim of a city land-grab.

As rumored, Geller did seriously consider running. In fact, he reports that the state Republican Party came to him in September and told him that if he ran, they would provide 55,000 registered Republican Denverites to support him. (Geller says he's 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.)

He came close to jumping in -- and even developed a stump speech for the occasion calling for a balanced city budget and an aggressive marketing program. But in the end, he decided he wasn't cut out for it. "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, these days he has other matters to consider -- such as how he says he discovered a few days ago that the city was planning on grabbing a sizable chunk of one of his properties, a fact he learned from reading a blog about it on DenverUrbanism.com.

The post reported on the city's planned Welton and Colfax intersection reconstruction project, a bond-funded improvement project that will make the busy crossing more pedestrian friendly and add streetscaping. But according to the mock-up on DenverUrbanism.com (see left), the changes will also involve running a street through the corner of Geller's property.

"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 for years he's been planning to build on the site a mid-rise hotel with parking underneath (who knows, maybe it would resemble the striking yet controversial Bell Tower Geller proposed for another of his properties). But with the changes the city has proposed, Geller says his lot 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."

But if the city really wants that chunk of land? Geller says they can have it -- as long as they pony up. "If they want this, 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." How expensive? Geller says the last appraisal of the site came in at around $4 million.

Geller is still willing to work with those in power. In fact, he says he's been talking with the current mayoral front-runners about what he'd like to see in Denver's future -- 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: Maybe even without running for mayor, Geller will still get his way.

More from our Politics archive: "Gerald Styron, Denver mayoral candidate, once threatened to bring a gun to Westword."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner