New York firm wants to build Denver’s tallest skyscraper, expects to battle “a certain stigma”

A rendering of the skyscraper planned for 650 17th Street. (Courtesy of Greenwich Realty Capital)
A rendering of the skyscraper planned for 650 17th Street. (Courtesy of Greenwich Realty Capital)
A rendering of the skyscraper planned for 650 17th Street. (Courtesy of Greenwich Realty Capital)

Right now, Greenwich Realty Capital says they plan to build a 90-story building with 248 condos, 22,000 square feet of retail space and a boutique hotel — what GRC Managing Partner Michael Ursini calls a triple-use building.

It would be Denver’s tallest building, but exactly what would be inside isn’t set in stone yet. 

“The reason for having a triple-use building initially was in order to help to mitigate the construction defect law, so we retain ownership of the building for a certain period of time, there would be less likelihood that we’d be subject to litigation in the event that there was some sort of class action lawsuit,” he said.

With changes in Colorado’s construction defect laws, the firm is now reconsidering the boutique hotel in favor of possible rental housing.

On the one hand, including a boutique hotel in plans for Denver’s tallest building would mean an opportunity to enliven the community aspect for condo residents.

“We walked in a lot of buildings and some of the buildings that are well-noted higher-end condominiums downtown and we found that we saw four or five people in an hour that were different,” Ursini said. “There was no life in the building.”

On the other hand, Ursini says that Denver’s hotel market is saturated and its rental market is not. Plus, building rental housing could mean fewer risks.

“When you lease something, it’s different than running something. So if you have the day-to-day operations of a [hotel] management company, it’s a bigger undertaking, it’s time consuming, it has a lot of upfront costs for something that’s a maybe,” Ursini said. “Whereas you do rental, you can entertain the possibility of even selling out the rental in one block to a management company.”

So they say they’re taking some time off filing paperwork with the city in order to study the possibility. When they do file paperwork, it will be their first application with the city. A different developer did file an application associated with the same address, 650 17th St., last year, but that developer is no longer involved with the project, according landowner Buzz Geller with Paradise Land Co.

GRC currently plans to decide on the hotel or rental housing question sometime in the next few weeks. One constant in all plans is that they’re trying to build a really big building.

“We want to exhaust any possibility of increasing the size of the building so that we can really deliver a truly iconic and progressive building for the city,” Ursini said.

As a New York City firm coming to Colorado with plans to build the city’s tallest skyscraper, Ursini says that he knows that he’ll be battling “a certain stigma” that comes with that. But GRC wants to build something that’s right for Denver.

“We came in, we identified the culture, we tried to put something together that took into consideration that cachet that Colorado has, that country-city type feel and then we tried to put a little bit of New York on it to add to the progression,” Ursini said.

“We saw a very defined opportunity in that we feel that Denver is somewhat of an empty palette for development. Not just from a developer standpoint, the whole city is growing,” he said.