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DENVER-Trump International Hotel & Residences Denver LLC’s interest in the mixed-use, redevelopment of the Denver Union Center in LoDo is eliciting a mixed response from Denver’s commercial real estate community. The public-private, transit-oriented development ultimately could have a price tag approaching $1 billion, according to developer estimates.

Trump International, headed by New York City developer Donald Trump, was a surprise respondent to the RFQ. Also on his team are the Bayrock group LLC and Barry Group Investments.

“I think it is very interesting,” John Shaw, who heads Denver’s office for Opus Northwest, one of the most active developers in the metro area, tells GlobeSt.com. “A part of me feels that Trump’s interest continues to show the maturation of the Denver marketplace and a part of me is amused.”

Shaw notes that Trump’s response is just a preliminary step. “It is yet to be proved beyond throwing his hat into the ring, he is committed to bringing the kind of talent and resources that this development needs,” Shaw tells GlobeSt.com. “And that is a big issue. My perception that this project is going to require three or four years of really hard work with the community. He really needs someone on the ground that can execute his plan. That is an enormous commitment. ”

Mary Sullivan, a top investment broker at CB Richard Ellis, says what she likes best about Trump’s interest “is that it shows Denver has really arrived as a destination for top developers. This really helps put Denver on the map and it establishes it as a place that has the kind of stature to attract someone like Trump.”

One developer was extremely cynical about Trump’s response and hopes that he doesn’t proceed to the next round. “What Trump has done in other cities is slap his name on condos for a fee,” the developer, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, tells GlobeSt.com. “The idea is that the Trump name has such a cachet that it will bring a premium. I personally find his stuff kind of gauche. But there’s a lot of very qualified, highly respected developers on the list who would make the kind of committed and would do the kind of development that would make the city and taxpayers proud. You would think the selection committee would see through that and hire someone else.”

But Denver developer Jim Sullivan says that Trump would be good for Denver. “There aren’t many developers here who really think outside of the box,” Sullivan tells GlobeSt.com. “It would be good to bring someone from the outside here. We need some fresh blood in the city. Despite what some developers say, Denver is a very good condo and real estate market, if you build good product.”

Jim Carpenter, policy group director for Denver’s Office of Economic Development, says he’s not sure how Trump became interested in the project. “It would just be speculation on my part,” he tells GlobeSt.com. But he notes that the development was promoted at the Urban Land Institute and the Congress for the New Urbanism. Also, GlobeSt.com has run several articles about the development, giving it nationwide exposure.

Carpenter says that he was pleased by the caliber of both local and national respondents. “We’re very excited about the regarding the quality of the developers who have taken an interest in this,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “We think that bodes extremely well for the development.”

In addition to Trump, firms responding to the RFQ include a local team of Continuum Partners and East West Partners. Continuum is developing Belmar, the mixed-use “downtown” for Lakewood, CO. East West Parcels is developing the River Front development adjacent to LoDo and is one of the largest private owners of land around the historic train station.

Forest City Development, which is developing Stapleton, one of the largest infill development in the US also responded to the RFQ. Shea Properties, developer of Highlands Ranch, a grand master-planned development in the metro area, as well as the redevelopment of the Colorado Health Science Center that is moving to Fitzsimons, also is another heavyweight in the running. Cherokee Investment Partners, Dakota Ridge Development and New Boston Real Estate Inc., also made a team. Cherokee and Dakota Ridge, both whose principals include Denver developer Ferdinand ‘Ferd” Belz III, is developing 50-acres of the former Gates Rubber site at Broadway and Interstate 25.

Corporex Colorado LLC, which is developing the Museum Residences condominiums being designed by New York City architect Daniel Libeskind, the architect who created the master plan for the World Trade Center replacement, also submitted a bid. Mile High Development, headed by Denver developer George Thorn, submitted as well.

Others submissions include: Alexander Co. of Madison, WI; Denver Crossroads Developer LLC of Greeley, CO; Timothy O’Brien LLC, of Denver; and William Jackson Ewing Inc. of Baltimore. A short list is expected in October, Carpenter says, and will likely include three to five teams.

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