VIP Cannabis on West Alameda Avenue is a retail operation for VIP Wellness Center, whose growing facility was moved by the city for a Peoria Street overpass project. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Pot plants cost Denver thousands in bridge project; money mystery remains

Story continued

“The agreement ensured Sims/Roady would remain acting as landlord until the tenants were relocated, it allowed the tenants time to relocate, and gave the city the right to decide when the property deed would be released and recorded as City property,” Williams wrote.

With $1.4 million in hand, Roady and Sims said they felt the property wasn’t theirs any longer, even though they continued to collect about $8,000 a month in rent from VIP and an auto-repair shop next door.

“Who takes $1.4 million to sell something and still owns it?” Roady mused.

An e-mail from Sims/Roady attorney Douglas Widlund to his clients during the negotiation phase seems to explain what happened:

“Denver decided last night at a meeting that the City cannot close on the property with the pot shop in place,” Widlund wrote in late October 2012. “Denver believes it cannot be lessor to a tenant that is operating a business that is illegal under federal law. This is the first we’ve heard of this situation from Denver.”

The result, he wrote, was that “we are left with waiting on a closing until the pot shop is out.”

Sims/Roady continued collecting rent, albeit at a reduced rate because the businesses in the warehouse — a Goodyear shop rented another portion of it — knew they had to leave.

“It was crazy,” Goodyear shop owner Marc Mager recalled. “One second, the city says to get out. The next, it’s wait. Then, it’s get out again.”

For Mager, the nightmare wasn’t having to rush and find a new location — he had purchased the parcel located just behind the warehouse — but was having to honor his lease with Sims/Roady while covering a mortgage on a new location.

“I’m out about $50,000 for all that and only because we did what we were told to do — get out,” he said, explaining he took the city’s word about leaving by the planned December 2012 closing.

Map: Colorado medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana centers

VIP subleased warehouse space at 3739 Peoria St. from Remedy Care Center, which Uribe also owned, to grow the plants for VIP’s larger locations, city marijuana-licensing records show.

Remedy leased the space at $5,000 a month from Sims/Roady.

The rent dropped to $3,000 a month in mid-2012, when the city said it was planning to take the property, records show.

The records also show managers at H.C. Peck & Associates, the Denver firm hired by the city to handle the Peoria Crossing land acquisitions, at one point seriously considered buying the pot plants outright — more than 800 at the time — and destroying them in order to get VIP moved and the purchase closed in December.

“Peck is exploring the possibility of purchasing the medical marijuana plants on site in order to facilitate this business relocation,” according to a note in VIP’s relocation file dated Oct. 19, 2012.

The problem, according to records, was the delicacy of the marijuana plants. Grown in tightly controlled conditions, any move could kill them — potentially at a cost of millions of dollars.

Records show the idea of buying the plants was nixed before any value to the pot was provided.

Plans for the move dragged on. Records show HC Peck made repeated efforts to contact Uribe, who was often “out of the country” or whose telephone numbers didn’t work.

Visits to VIP’s main location on Federal Boulevard also proved futile, and messages were unreturned.

The times Uribe did contact the city, progress was small, records show.

Last March, the Colorado Department of Transportation revisited the idea of buying — and destroying — the plants.

“They are working with the (district attorney’s) office to find a ‘better’ way to … pay for and destroy the medical marijuana plants,” notes in HC Peck files show.

The project managers eventually opted to pay VIP to move the plants. With the delay, the inventory had grown to nearly 1,000 plants.

A month after the deal was recorded, the city paid Uribe — and not VIP — for moving the plants.

“VIP would like to have all relocation payments made payable to Luis Uribe due to accounting reasons,” HC Peck wrote the city.

When the sale finally closed in April, the city made its final payment of $83,000 — $100,000, minus property tax and utility expenses — to Sims/Roady.

Cannabist Q&A: Fielding queries from readers about all marijuana matters

When the city paid Uribe on May 13, 2013, for moving the marijuana plants, it discussed “remaining relocation benefits” to cover the $23,452 VIP paid to move its lighting equipment and tables to a leased storage unit.

It was the last time the city had contact with Uribe, despite repeated efforts to locate him, most recently in February, records show.

Federal authorities in November raided a number of locations with ties to Uribe and Solano, listing the men among 10 “target subjects.”

The location along South Jason Street where VIP had moved the marijuana plants months before was not among those raided, and today the building is empty.

Authorities have said in court papers that Uribe’s older brother, Gerardo, allegedly heads the organization it’s investigating, although no charges have been filed against the businesses or their owners.

“They were nice, clean-cut fellows,” Sims said of the Uribes and Solano. “They usually paid their rent on time, and the rent was good.”

Still, she said, having a pot operation as a tenant wasn’t an easy sell for her.

“I didn’t want to get into it and I remember being talked into it,” she said. “It’s dirty money and I didn’t like it. I was so relieved the city got us out of it, a blessing, because it bothered me that we risked losing it all at any time. “

David Migoya: 303-954-1506, or

This story was first published on