Denver had a record setting year in 2017 and leading into 2018 — that was the theme of the morning at the Downtown Denver Partnership’s annual event, State of Downtown Denver 2018.
The event marked the release of the State of Downtown Denver’s report, which celebrated the city’s growth and investment in the downtown area.
"We have had a fabulous year,” said Bill Mosher, senior managing director of Trammel Crow and chairman of DDP.
Kevin Kelley, managing partner at Husch Blackwell’s Denver office and DDP board member, said the amount of investment in the city, from both local and national sources, continued Denver’s status as a destination.
"We’ve got a lot to celebrate and a lot to be proud of," Kelley said. "In 2017 we set records."
Over $2 billion of investment through developments is in the pipeline, according to the report. In 2017 and through the first half of 2018, $1.35 billion in new development was or is scheduled to be completed.
"Last year, we completed 17 projects downtown and have 35 more planned, said Tami Door, president and CEO of DDP.
These completed projects added over 4,000 residential units, 772 hotel rooms and 2.7 million square feet of office space in downtown, according to the report.
It’s no surprise, then, that this makes Denver the third fastest-growing city, according to data in the report from WalletHub.
“Denver continues to see strong demand from capital investors nationally and now globally,” said Mark Katz, senior managing director at HFF. “We see this demand continuing and loom forward to Denver’s continued rise as a destination for investment capital.”
In the last year, the largest residential project completed was Holland Partner Group’s Union, at 579 units.
Hines’ 1144 Fifteenth Street was the largest office project, at 670,000 square feet.
"Development is the core of what we do," Door said. "We must make sure that we are not adding any additional hurdles that drive barriers into this economic growth and prevent job opportunities for the residents of Denver."
Denver is a unique city with a tremendous opportunity to grow even more, said Amy Cara, a managing partner at East West Partners.
"We cannot just rest on our laurels," Cara said. "It’s not going to continue to be top of lists if we don’t continue to be better."
Cara said that it’s important to have a bigger, better definition of green and healthy. She also said that a commitment to the quality of design and materials is something of matter.
"These buildings are going to be here for decades — we need to make sure we’re making a Denver we can be proud of from a physical perspective," she said.
The report also said that over $4.4 billion has been invested in Denver development in just the last five years.
Office market and jobs
As the city grows, so do jobs and opportunities.
Denver ranks first in the nation for the highest increase in skilled labor, with Washington D.C. following second, according to data from JLL in the State of Downtown Denver 2018 report.
It was also ranked as the top metro area for small business employment (Paychex, 2018) and the third-best place to live in the US (US News and World Report, 2018).
The relocation, and location, of big companies to the metro has created a challenging of feeding their growth and scale with a solid talent pool, Door said.
"We must grow our own talent and attract talent from across the country," she said.
Other statistics from the report:
The total metro area Denver labor force is nearing almost 2 millionDaily growth in the metro is approximately 100 people. Tech employment has grown 74 percent since 2010 downtownMore than 10,000 people are employed by high tech companies in the downtown.
"Two thirds of our employees moved to work here, and half of them live in downtown," said Jeffrey Finch, CPO and co-founder of Choozle.
He said it wasn’t just the attraction of the digital advertising and marketing company that brought them here, but also the Denver lifestyle and business environment.
"Rapid growth in tech sector employment has been tremendous," said Lee Mayer, co-founder and CEO of Havenly, an online interior design company.
Data provided by by Downtown Denver reported that employment is at an all-time high at 133,478 — a 2.5 percent year-over-year increase.
"I’ve never been to a city where people are so proud to be from here and work here," Mayer said. "What can we do to keep bringing more and more people here?"
A hot topic in the conversation about growth has been mobility — in terms of both options and access.
Almost the same number of the 133,478 people that commute downtown use transit or drive alone — 39.3 percent and 39 percent, respectively. Both Finch and Keo Frazier, VP of marketing at McWhinney, touched on the need for great access to transit.
"I wish there were more bike lanes," said Finch, explaining that while some areas of the city are bike-friendly, some can still be tough to access .
Bike use has almost doubled in the last five years, the report said.
Frazier highlighted the light rail stations available, but said the city could improve mobility in that most people still have to walk a mile or more to access those stations.
"My downtown would be culturally accessible, completely mobile and it would have great open green spaces," she said of the opportunities to improve the downtown area.
Denver was ranked the fourth most exciting food city in America, the report said, pulling data from Zagat.
"We’ve worked really hard to put ourselves on the map in the restaurant and retail world," said Beth Gruitch, co-founder and managing partner at Crafted Concepts. Her company owns and manages five restaurants in the Denver area, including two in Larimer Square and two in Union Station.
"We want everyone to win," she said of other local restaurants opening and thriving in the city. "The community and camaraderie in this city is amazing."
Downtown Denver has over 4 million square feet of retail space with a vacancy rate of 3.3 percent, according to the report, and retail sales tax collections have increased over 60 percent in the past eight years as well.
Notable retailers have located here recently (or announced plans to), like Sephora, Target, Whole Foods and Warby Parker.
The report also featured rankings of Denver compared to other cities in the United States. Here’s how it stacked up —
Fourth in population growth, at 13.1 percentFifth in educated millennial population, at 46 percentNinth in asking rent for office, at $27.02 per square footFourth in traffic congestion, at 36 hours in traffic during peak Third in startup density, at 92.31 number of startups per 1,000 firms Fifth in gross metro product, at a 19.5 percent increase in GMP from 2011-2016Fifth in job growth, at 26 percent non-farm growth Ninth in apartment rent, at $1,040 median rent for a 1-bedroom apartmentFifth in young firm growth, at 20.5 percent increase in jobs between 2011-2016
2018 Largest Denver-Area Social and Digital Media Marketing Firms
Ranked by Number of Denver-area social and digital media marketing client accounts
Rank Company name Number of Denver-area social and digital media marketing client accounts 1 Elevated Third 180 2 Harmony Design LLC 122 3 Neon Rain Interactive 107 View This List