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Bell Tower Update: Return of the NIMBYs

Buzz Geller’s proposed 34-story Bell Tower received its preliminary approval from the Lower Downtown Design Review Board back on February 5. Now, a retired attorney who lives in the Larimer Place tower on Block 046 two blocks away from Geller’s site, has asked the Landmark Preservation Commission to overturn the LDDRB’s approval.

For the details, please check out John Rebchook’s article in today’s Rocky and Joel Warner’s blog at Westword.

Personally, despite what Mr. Pearson says, I think this is a classic case of NIMBYism at its worst: people who live in a tower complaining about another tower. The Larimer Place folks have done this before to Geller, and I saw them myself show up en mass when the W Hotel & Residences project was before the LDDRB.

Since I know many of you support Mr. Geller’s efforts to build the Bell Tower, rather than complain about the situation here on this blog, I suggest you send a note of support to the Landmark Preservation Commission to their general email address: Landmark@denvergov.org or you may submit your comments via the Commission’s online form here:

http://www.denvergov.org/Historic_Preservation/HomePage/ContactUs/tabid/387989/Default.aspx

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25 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    How about starting a Facebook page in support of the Bell Tower?

  2. Anonymous says:

    People in glass houses should NOT throw stones! The nerve of this guy is unbelievable. Ken is right… the way to fight this is to speak up and let the Landmark Preservation Commission know that there are more people who want it built than people who don't.

    It may be helpful to point out that while the Bell Tower is adjacent to LoDo and the zoning permits its height, Larimer Place is actually IN LoDo. If the LDDRB codes were in place when Larimer Place was built, it would never have made it off the drawing board.

    If you ask me, Larimer Place is FAR more offensive than Bell Tower. It creates disgusting dead-end to the Larimer Square pedestrian experience. Not to mention its residents are the worst NIMBY's in town. Denver would be better off without it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Will do. And speaking of the proposed W Hotel & Residences at the Office Depot location – can we safely assume that the project isn't going anywhere?

    It's a shame if so..

  4. pizzuti says:

    It doesn't seem to me that this complaint is going to be taken seriously – there has to be one like it for every major project ever built – and this is likely just a blip on the radar to the development proposal.

    Personally I don't think it's Mr. Pearson's burden to explain whether or not he's really just complaining because the tower would block his view. Any citizen has the right to bring a statement forward for consideration for whatever reason. His complaint should be judged by the merits of exressed within the letter – that the tower is isufficiently narrow ro the floorplans are too big – which, in this case, appear flimsy.

    I don't think Mr. Pearson is providing any "new" information that the board didn't already know of, so I doubt their decision would change. He already stated he wouldn't take the issue to court so there's no threat of serious action to weigh on the board's decisionmaking.

    I think the best way for the public, if interested in seeing the tower be built, to respond is to simply reassure the board of its interest in the tower. The point we want to get across is that this is a good project for Denver, it would add some striking originality to the architecture downtown, and that during a serious economic recession we should be grateful for whatever economic activity we can get in the line of major construction.

    I think I'd personally say; in a time when construction projects are being cancelled left and right due to the economic downturn, think of how tragic it would be if it was the city government that blocked a feasible and popular project that has already gained tenative approval and would create jobs and bring money to Denver.

    I wouldn't mention anything specifically about Mr. Pearson or where he lives. I WOULD mention if you are a resident of Denver, and keep the tone as friendly as possible. Angry rants are generally taken less seriously.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with what others have said about Larimer Place. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you transfer property rights from the owners of land to the "community."

    If Mr. Pearson values his precious views so much, I suggest he purchase Mr. Geller's land and let it lie fallow.

  6. el tigre says:

    I just sent the following letter to the LPC:

    Dear Landmark Preservation Commission,

    I wish to express my support for a building under consideration for construction in Lower Downtown, the Bell Tower. As a long-time resident of both Denver and central downtown, I believe it is in the best interest of the city to proceed with construction of this building. It will add a striking and definitive feature to the Denver skyline, hopefully inspiring architects and designers in the future to reflect such boldness and imagination in their own creations. Denver is sorely lacking in distinctive architecture. Though we have beautiful buildings that reflect our past, we have none to indicate our future, to show we are a city committed to innovation and progress. I strongly encourage you to support the Bell Tower.

  7. The Artistic Mercenary™ says:

    If the people of Larimer Place had their way they'd be the only tower in the city. As it stands, they're just the ugliest. And their complaints smack of pitifully shallow people trying to preserve the mountain view from their window, the rest of the city be damned.

  8. Bonji says:

    Here is my letter to the commission:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am a Denver resident writing with my support for the much discussed Bell Tower project. I am saddened to see that a small group of downtown residents can throw a road block in front of one of the most exciting architectural designs ever proposed in Denver.

    Imagine if someone had put up a similar roadblock in front of Daniel Libeskind and the Denver museum expansion. Had a group of neighbors done that Denver would be without a great new structure that brings international interest and notoriety to the city. These are the types of projects that define a city and we are fortunate to have a developer in Buzz Geller willing to take the risk on project like Bell Tower that can define Denver's skyline for generations to come.

    I hope that this commission can see past the short sighted viewpoints of a few and support a project that is good for the city as a whole.

    Thank you,
    XXXXX XXXXXXXX
    Denver resident

  9. Anonymous says:

    I just sent the following to landmark:

    PLEASE do whatever it takes to keep the Bell Tower Project ALIVE. This would be such an huge/important addition to Denver and the LODO area! I saw today an article about a resident not happy about the approved new tower. Well yeah because he cant afford to live there. Not that I can myself, but that tower is not just for the people that live in it. It’s for all of us in the Denver area to enjoy its beauty and something other then a shoe box tipped on its side. That tower will usher in a whole new era for this wonderful city. The look of this tower will not only add to the sky line it will further advance Denver into a popular city where more middle and upper class people would rather live. This city has the potential to be one of the greats in the U.S. and if those that have the power are to afraid to allow a creative and new approach to the future of this city…. Then please change our name from Denver to Detroit. Mr. Gellar has made many changes to this tower to get it to the slim beautiful look that it is today. It would be a dark day in our history if you that have the power to keep it alive allow for the very few that dont like the tower becuase of whatever selfish reason they have to step in its path.

    That location is doomed forever to be a parking lot if this tower never sees light.

    Please do what it right of ALL of Denver!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I just sent mine into your attached link – hang in there Buzz. You know what they say about lawyers… obviously he is selfish and self-serving.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wrote my letter,

    I am a citizen of the Denver area. I was both surprised and disappointed to read today that Buzz Geller, developer of the Bell Tower in downtown, may again have to fight a battle with the Landmark Preservation Commission concerning the design of his tower. I am here to announce my support for building the Bell Tower, as it will be a great addition to an important area of town. This project, along with the adjoining structure across Cherry Creek, will help better connect Larimer Square with the Auraria Campus that is currently separated by a barren parking lot and Speer Boulevard. Adding both an iconic and noticable highrise to this area will also help spur further creativity by other urban developers who share the same passion as Buzz to build their projects in Denver in the coming years. If the Landmark Preservation Commission is indeed concerned with maintaining historical preservation in a treasured district of Denver, I would like to suggest that they first address structures that already exist in the area, such as Larimer Place. Improving the street-level appearance and vitality of this tower would greatly improve an entire square block, which is currently an enclosed, fortress wall. I would also suggest that the committee take into consideration the self-vested interest that some tenants of Larimer Place may have in blocking the construction of the Bell Tower, and disregard them as such. In the case of the Bell Tower, the pros of building such a project outweigh the cons, as it will bring density, added tax revenue, and a link that will bridge two city neighborhoods.

    Thank you very much for your consideration.

  12. HIstorymystery says:

    The thing that really ticks me off about Larimer Place–even more than its design–is that the original developers, Cal Fulenwider and Nick Petry, bought the land from DURA at an appallingly low cost: $241,373. Yes, that's for a full half-block of downtown Denver, and that's less than what 1-bedroom units in the building are worth today. Even though that's in 1978 money, they still got the land at rock-bottom prices, probably the equivalent of about $400,000 or $450,000 today (just a rough guess). At the time, DURA was desperate to get some downtown housing projects started, but that was a massive giveaway, and DURA did nothing to encourage the developers to tie the building's design in with Larimer Square or what we now call LoDo.

    When the units first went on the market, they ran from $152,000 on the low end to $231,000 on the high, so you can see how profitable they would have been (except that ultimately, with Denver's oil boom having crashed by the time the building was finished, they had a hard time unloading all of the units).

    Oh, and they had originally promised a quality design by SOM, but instead they got cheap and hired an uncaring and unsophisticated local architect, who gave us those wonderful blank walls on 15th and 16th, and that friendly recessed driveway on Larimer.

    FYI to one of the anonymous posters above: technically, LoDo starts on the other side of the alley from Larimer Place, which was part of DURA's Skyline urban removal project. Not that the technicality matters in the least.

    GO BUZZ GO!

  13. joeindt says:

    Ah what the heck, I sent a note. It's a nice building but it's not that I'm even tower crazy, but the tower is in downtown where it should be.. not amongst a bunch of single family homes, not a scrape and rebuild destroying the character of a neighborhood block, so whats the problem?
    I wrote:

    I'm writing in support of Buzz Geller's proposed Bell Tower. The developer has taken on a very challenging project in which he has thoughtfully incorporated the surroundings not only through the city approval process, but also from a creative standpoint within his own organization. It may be worth mentioning that most cities would love the chance to have such a wonderful addition to a prominent location. It is my hope that the project will continue undeterred.

  14. binford says:

    This retired attorney who professes to act only out of concern for LoDo forgets that a historic block of Larimer, Denver's oldest street, was leveled to make way for a brick box where he now parks his car.

  15. Ken says:

    The Facebook idea is a great one. However, I think the LPC isn't going to fight this battle, and the whole thing will blow over. Mr. Pearson has already stated it's unlikely he'll go to court if he loses. Let's just stay positive and send supportive comments to the LPC and see what happens next.

    Thank you to all of you who have written in so far!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I wrote:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    As a resident and property owner in LoDo (XXXX), I am writing in support of the current design of Buzz Geller's proposed 34-story Bell Tower.

    I became aware of Z.L. Pearson Jr.'s appeal of the design review board's decision to approve the project through an article in the Westword. I believe that it would be a critical mistake to not allow this project to move forward.

    This building is exactly what downtown Denver needs to continue building itself into a world class urban community. It is a striking, unique design that will enhance the appeal of the area. The board must consider what is best for the future of the downtown Denver community and not cave to the selfish agenda of a few citizens. Exciting architectural design, such as the Bell Tower, is necessary to spur additional development and make downtown Denver a more attractive residential location.

    Best Regards,
    XXXX

  17. Anonymous says:

    Another letter submitted to the Board. I think the public's voice will come through loud and clear on this. Thanks Ken, for keeping us informed. And thanks Buzz, for keeping on keeping on–I can't wait to see your tower go up.

  18. Scott Bennett says:

    How about a compromise? I say we knock down Larimer Place and put the Bell Tower there.

    (Barring that, I also sent an email to the Landmark Preservation Commission in support of the Bell Tower project.)

  19. Anonymous says:

    I found it interesting that one of the complaints this gentlemen had was that owners in the Bell Tower might want to enclose their balconies, thus increasing the size of the unit. Larimer Place, where he lives, has allowed this to happen and it has totally destroyed the architectural integrity of the building. It is probably the ugliest tower downtown! I wonder if his unit is enclosed? The Bell Tower is a great looking building. Just what is needed at that location. Lets hope the Design Review Board lets it go ahead. Geller has gone overboard to get this approved.

  20. Zane says:

    Random note.
    Hypo, the bank that bailed out the Spire is now being nationalized by the German government
    http://www.euronews.net/en/article/18/02/2009/germany-moves-towards-nationalising-hypo-bank/

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Historymystery, for the tutorial on the beginnings of Larimer Place. As much as we want to blame Mr. Pearson for living in an ugly building, the true blame should be laid at the feet of SOM and whoever the local architect was who concocted this pitiful design. The developers didn't bother to keep any of their original promises, including, if I remember correctly, a public plaza. (Same thing holds true at the Barclay, which has fenced off access to its second-story plaza.)

    Once you see pix of Larimer Street between 15th and 18th pre urban renewal, today's buildings (LP, Barclay and Windsor) are more difficult to stomach.

    And I echo an earlier query: What's up with the W Hotel? I can only imagine how much squawking LP residents will make when, and if, that project ever gets under way.

  22. greenboy says:

    I would love to have a close view of The Bell Tower to look at every day. Scott B. has it right Denver would be a much better city without Larimer Place,TEAR IT DOWN.
    Every resident in LP needs to take Design and Art Appreciation classes.
    Then they would want their building torn down as well.

  23. Historymystery says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Anon 2/18 6:43, but I should clarify: to the best of my knowledge, SOM was NOT involved in the final design of Larimer Place. If they had been, it might not have been cutting-edge like the Bell Tower, but it would have been better than what was built. During that era, SOM was quite busy in Denver, with the twin-tower World Trade Center project at 16th & Broadway, the building that currently houses Xcel Energy's HQ at 17th & Larimer, and several other big projects. They were announced as the architect for Larimer Place, but were later dropped (as near as I can determine) in favor of the local architect. Or maybe their fees were too high, or perhaps they just had so much work on that they backed out (it was a VERY busy time, during that oil boom).

    Those empty second-floor plazas were meant to be connected by sky bridges; a few were, but thankfully those view-blocking abominations have all been removed. The bridge that was to span 16th between Larimer Place and Barclay was never built, but you can see where the architect meant for it to be if you look up at the top of the blank wall at Larimer Place–there are some open-trellis bricks there that were meant to be removed once the bridge was built, kind of like a punch-out. I climbed the now-blocked stairs once to the Larimer Place plaza, and also to the Barclay plaza, and neither was anything to write home about. The best of the above-street plazas was the one at Park Central, but no one ever bothered to go up there.

    The developers who got to take advantage of the corporate welfare project known as Skyline were able to get away with quite a lot (yes, officially it was "urban renewal," but the reality was that a lot of those old buildings had a second life awaiting them but were torn down and the land sold to developers at incredibly low prices). And yes, bring back the Good Block at 16th & Larimer, or the Railroad Exchange Building (I think it was called) that stood closer to 15th on this side of Larimer. But of course, you can't bring them back.

    For my money, I wish the Larimer Place condo association would partner with a developer to tear down and completely re-build the base of their building, with retail facing 16th and 15th, and some other pedestrian-friendly use along Larimer. But somehow I just don't see that ever happening.

  24. Dori says:

    The real benefit of Geller's project won't be seen in the building but rather in how it will help in transforming our demographics. When the Seasons is finished and Bell Tower is a reality, we should see a huge shift in interest by retailers to provide new retail possibilities back into the heart of the city.

    Being an old timer, I remember the 70's when shopping and dining in Denver was about as elegant as the best parts of NYC, Chicago and San Francisco. This addition, in my view, will energize not only new retailers to bring their products downtown but may, if we're really lucky, be the spark to other projects that feel that they can top Geller's vision. The Donald may even reappear!

    Yea, yea, I sent my letter but sadly some of those folks who sit on the decision side might do well by asking some old timers how it used to be.

    Good going Buzz!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I think they should tear all the buildings in Denver down and build a single tower 10,000 feet tall. That way everyone can live in one building with nothing blocking their views. They could also see over the continental divide to see when the I-70 ski traffic clears up. Its also a convenient way for depressed people to commit suicide in bad econimic times. When they splat on the ground from 10,000 feet up, there will be nothing left so no one will have to clean up the carcass.