Downtown Denver's Primed for Growth
Among American cities, Denver’s got something rare in its Downtown: a lot more room to grow. Or as one of our panelists at Bisnow’s Future of Downtown event yesterday put it: “We’re still filling in our best dirt.”
In short, the future of Downtown is more growth. One reason is that the average age of office buildings in the CDB is 32 years, with most of the modern skyline built in the ’80s. Now, with an influx of companies and young talent who want to live in the city, along with some transformational projects such as Union Station, Downtown Denver is poised for a commercial and residential transformation the likes of which it hasn’t seen in decades. About 200 joined us at the Sheraton Denver Downtown for the event.
Downtown Denver Partnership CEO Tami Door gave the opening remarks, noting that major investment has come to Downtown. The organization’s most recent development report found that $880M is being invested through projects currently under construction. That translates into new office and retail space, along with 1,500 new hotel rooms, as well as 4,500 residential units, which Tami calls extremely important, because “residents truly create a 24/7 Downtown." And there’s more to come: out-of-state and out-of-country investors have taken a strong interest in Downtown Denver, she says. “Next week alone, we’re hosting five major developers to give them tours, and none of them have ever been to Denver."
Snapped: Gensler managing director Jon Gambrill and Hines Interest managing director Jay Despard, who’s overseeing the 650k SF spec office development at 1144 15th St, which will break ground next spring as the fourth-tallest building in the city. Not only will there be new space Downtown, the panelists noted, but strong demand for upgraded space in the existing stock of buildings, to open up some of the floorplates, replace tired mechanicals, and make cosmetic improvements.
Ballard Spahr partner Joey Lubinski, one of our moderators, Unico Properties VP Austin Kane, and Savills Studey EVP Jim McGrath. The development community, both for residential and office product, is unlikely to go overboard during this building cycle—conservatism is a mark of the current mindset, the panel observed, and development’s only moving forward when demand is perceived. But the demand will be there in the coming years. As an active urban area, Downtown’s going to benefit from in-migration, especially as the Millennials go through their career paths.
City of Denver chief project office Diane Barrett and East West Partners managing partners Chris Frampton. Is the Union Station area, with all its connecting modes of transit, going to be a destination point in Denver? The panelists agreed that it’s well on its way as a destination, with the key being multi-modal transit supporting a genuine mixed-use area. Many Denverites will keep their cars, but a growing number of trips—even to recreation areas near Denver—won’t rely on cars.
Stewart Title Commercial Services SVP Tom Konkel, who also moderated, Holland Development COO Erik Hagevik, and the Integral Group VP Eric Pinkney. Densification is increasing in the city, the panelists noted, especially in areas such as Broadway, RiNo, Ballpark, Golden Triangle, and Arapahoe Square—a lot of places. Devner’s participating in the worldwide trend of urbanization. Denver’s also well on the way to becoming a 24/7 city. Long-time residents remember going out to entertainment and then finding nowhere to eat late at night, but that’s not the case anymore.