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DENVER-Trillium Corp. originally bought 68 acres in the abandoned rail yards in the Central Platte Valley 14 years ago. At the time it “looked pretty spooky,” says David Syre, who heads the Bellingham, WA-based company, but the once forsaken dirt near Denver Union Station later became the home to the $1 billion-plus Riverfront Park neighborhood, Six Flags Elitch Gardens and the world headquarters for Gates Co.

More recently, Trillium has become embroiled in a financial scandal in the Pacific Northwest, which caused it to lose control of its remaining property in Central Platte Valley. Seven acres of prime land in the Valley has been mired in bankruptcy for most of the year, because Trillium had used it as a collateral for a loan from Western United Life Assurance Co., or WULA, a subsidiary of the now collapsed financial conglomerate Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities of Spokane, WA.

According to the SEC’s complaint, bogus deals materialized in the final days of Metropolitan’s fiscal year 2002, allowing the company to report a profit rather than the loss it had anticipated. In the largest of these deals, Metropolitan reported a $10 million gain by completely financing the purchase of property to Trillium, according to the SEC’s complaint. In addition to charges against Metropolitan’s officers, the SEC levels fraud charges against Trillium and the 64-year-old Syre.

Trillium and Syre, through a statement last month denied any wrongdoing and say they are cooperating with the Securities Exchange Commission, which filed several fraud charges against them. The statement says that they are “victims” of Metropolitan’s collapse, which cost investors an estimated $450million.

A Trillium-created company known as WoDo LLC owns the Denver land. Denver experts estimate it could eventually be the home for a $360 million office, retail and hotel development. The WoDo, or “west of Downtown” property, known as the Commons, between Speer Boulevard and 20th Street, is just hitting the market, because the bankruptcy court just gave permission to sell it.

The CB Richard Ellis team of Eric and Mark Roth and Tim Swan is listing it. The property is “listed with CBRE and will be sold as promptly as possible given current market conditions,” according to WoDo bankruptcy documents recently filed with the US Bankruptcy Court Western District of Washington in Seattle and obtained by GlobeSt.com. “All net proceeds of sales will be used to fund the WULA payments, for repayment of debt incurred in connection with the WULA payments, or for general operating expenses as circumstances warrant.”

No price has been put on the land, but the various lots that can be sold separately or as a package. Land in the valley for the Gates HQ sold for about $194 per sf. “The big buzzword in real circles is transit-oriented developments,” Eric Roth tells GlobeSt.com. “This could be a textbook TOD site.”

Roth will be presenting the land to the 11 teams bidding for the Union Station deal, including Trump. Trump’s partner on his Denver Union Station bid, Felix Satter, in an e-mail to GlobeSt.com wrote: “I am out of the country traveling but would love to look at the site and any relevant info on it. If I like it I will speak with Mr. Trump.”

Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., doing a bit of back-of-the-envelope math, estimates the 1.8 million sf of potential development on the parcels could serve as the catalyst for as many as 7,000 jobs and create a payroll in today’s dollars of $325 million.

“This is a big deal,” Clark tells GlobeSt.com. “There is no doubt that will be one of the most sought after pieces of real estate in metro Denver. With the Gates building down there and the old post office annex site being developed into the EPA regional headquarters, and the national spotlight on the Union Station site, there is a great deal of momentum in that part of downtown. “I bet those Trillium guys wish they still controlled the land.”

Tamara Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, agrees. “I’m not going to say this will put that part of downtown on everybody’s radar screen, because it already is on the radar screen because of Union Station,” Doors tells GlobeSt.com “But this will just get more developers, nationally and locally, buzzing about the area. When the site selectors were recently in town, they made it abundantly clear that we have an embarrassment of riches in Denver. But we just have to continually get the word out, and development opportunities like this help.”

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