Buzz Geller’s 34-story “Bell Tower” was dismissed as “too massive” by the Lower Downtown Design Review Board at their meeting last week.

You may recall the controversy over the proposed tower, located at the corner of Speer and Market on Block 242 in Lower Downtown. Geller obtained the property in a swap with the city for land Geller owned where the city wanted to build (and is currently building) the new Denver Justice Center. After acquiring the creekside property, Geller lobbied for and ultimately received the right, via the creation of a new Special Review District, to construct one of two project designs: “Option A” being a thin 400-foot signature tower with expanded public open space along the creek and a 55-foot high LoDo-esque companion building on the 14th Street side of the creek, or, “Option B” being two LoDo-esque buildings on both sides of the creek that would cover more of the site. Either plan’s final design was dependent upon the approval of the Lower Downtown Design Review Board.

Option A (left) – Option B (right)

Persuing Option A, Geller teamed with Fentress Architects and eventually arrived at this signature design:

This design was panned by the Board as not being “feather-like” enough so, in response, the design was “pinstriped” by Fentress in an attempt to appear a bit thinner:

Personally, I think the original non-pinstriped version was a cleaner and better design. But anyway, the LDDRB still wasn’t sure if the tower met the Special Review District’s guidelines, so they asked the city for a clarification. The city’s response in late September was that even the pinstriped version of the tower wasn’t “vertical and slender” enough and that “minor tweaks” to the building’s design would not meet with approval.

So, as John Rebchook at the Rocky Mountain News reports in his articles of November 4 and November 7, Buzz Geller let his Option A tower go through the LDDRB process one last time, knowing it would get rejected, which is exactly what happened last Thursday. The board found the tower to be too “massive.” For comparison purposes, the rejected Geller tower design had a footprint less than half that of One Lincoln Park.

With the rejection, Geller is now planning on persuing Option B, the two shorter blockish buildings covering more of the site. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. While I would have preferred Option A, two low-rise buildings with active ground-floor uses at that location will still be far superior to the ugly surface parking lots that exist there now.

But, I have to wonder: A developer is willing to build a $300 million archtecturally striking tower in our urban core that has a footprint smaller than just about any residential tower in this city and a site plan that maximizes views and public access to the creek, but it is rejected over what could be described, at best, as a subjective design nuance. Meanwhile, the city allows another developer to slap up not one, but three cheap beige monstrosities in the Golden Triangle that are architecturally offensive and derided by almost everyone. Does this make any sense?