The City of Denver plans to buy the former Denver Post building downtown.
A purchase agreement that will go before a City Council committee next week calls for the city to pay $88.5 million for the 11-story, 305,000-square-foot building at 101 W. Colfax Ave.
That works out to about $290 a square foot. The building also includes a 635-spot parking garage. The council will need to approve the purchase agreement. The deal could close in March, according to city documents.
The property’s current owner, an affiliate of New York-based American Properties, paid $93.42 million for it shortly after it was completed in 2006, according to public records.
The building is leased to the Post through October 2029, according to a city spokeswoman. The newspaper and its parent company moved out years ago and have been subleasing the space, largely to the city, which has 145,000 square feet across five floors. The Post lease will remain in place as the building sells. The Post will pay about $7.8 million in rent the first year.
The structure is next to the Wellington Webb Municipal Building and a short walk from other city and county buildings. Many of the city departments that have been using the subleased space will move back to the Webb Building when renovations are completed. The city is buying the building to allow for future expansion of the district, county, probate and juvenile courts, according to city documents.
It will also be used to provide dedicated space for nonprofit and judicial advocate services such as Colorado Legal Services and rental assistance programs, which currently have undedicated space in other city buildings, according to Laura Swartz, spokeswoman for the city’s Finance Department.
“By 2030, the combined courts will require an additional approximately 220,000 square feet, according to a courts master plan completed in 2020 using a framework established by the State of Colorado for judgeships and court staffing, as well as changes to cases being sent down to county courts,” Swartz said in an email. “By 2040, the space need is projected to be approximately 280,000 square feet.”
Swartz declined to disclose which side — the city or the building’s current owner — initiated discussions about a sale. She said the purchase price “was arrived through a negotiation and is supported by a third-party appraisal.” She said the appraisal would not be considered a public record until the transaction closes. Few downtown office buildings have sold since the COVID pandemic.
The Colfax building was built specifically for the Post and the rival Rocky Mountain News, which struck a joint operating agreement in 2000. The publications had separate newsrooms but shared other business operations.
The 101 W. Colfax structure cost $88 million to build, according to a 2006 story in the Post. Denver Post signage still tops the structure.
The structure was custom-built for the newspapers, but they technically never owned it, said Bill Mosher, whose company Mosher Sullivan Development Partners developed the building. It was initially owned by Atlanta-based SunTrust Equity Funding and financed with a credit-tenant lease, in which the newspapers’ commitment to take the space was enough to get it built.
Mosher, who went on to become a local executive for Trammell Crow Co., had previously developed the adjacent Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building and knew Dean Singleton, the head of the Post’s parent company. The Rocky Mountain News was owned by Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co.
“I think both of them didn’t want the other developing it, so I was the comfortable intermediary,” Mosher told BusinessDen.
The development site had previously been parking lots owned by three different owners, and was really the only option considered. Phil Ruschmeyer and Darrin Revious, then brokers with Frederick Ross Co., helped broker the deal. The placement spoke to the power of the news organizations and their commitment to serving as a watchdog of those in power.
“That site was always the site,” Mosher said.
Shortly after the building was completed in 2006, SunTrust sold the building to another entity, which quickly flipped it to the American Properties affiliate, records show.
“We want our capital investments in newspapers, not real estate,” Singleton said in 2006.
The newspaper industry has shrunk dramatically over the past two decades as the rise of the Internet has given advertisers more alternatives and changed consumer habits, among other factors. The Rocky closed in 2009. The Post moved its newsroom to a printing facility in Adams County in 2017. The remaining newspaper departments left the building by 2020.
Besides the city, other subtenants of the building include the law firm Bachus & Schanker and lender OnDeck Capital, according to CoStar.
Editor’s note: This story was updated after initial publication with more details.