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The Northwest Corridor: A Bright Future Ahead, But Also Challenges In Dealing With New Tech

Metro Denver's Northwest Corridor still has a lot of room to run, said the speakers at our Future of the Northwest Corridor event Tuesday, with businesses interested in relocating here not only from Denver and Boulder, but nationwide and even internationally. Even Millennials, whose reputation as urban-core dwellers is somewhat exaggerated, are moving to the area in force.

Comunale Properties' John Comunale, Ranch Capital's Bill Jencks, The Opus Group's Mark Johnson, Prime West's Jim Neenan, Holland & Hart's Marc Painter and Etkin Johnson's Cyndi Thomas

Development panel speakers said the Northwest Corridor is fundamentally strong as a place to relocate and do business, with access to Denver, Boulder and Denver International Airport, as well as an educated workforce and comparatively inexpensive housing. Thus demand for new commercial development has been and will continue to be strong.

The "Boulder effect" is a very real driving force along the corridor. R&D-related businesses take up as much as 40% of the office space in Boulder, by some estimates, but it is hard to find new space there. Not so in the Northwest Corridor. R&D and tech specialists and other innovators want what the corridor has to offer, including space that meets their specific needs: new office and lab space, and modern warehouse facilities as part of flex product. The Northwest Corridor, which is called the Creative Corridor for a reason, has about 20% of its space devoted to R&D, and the amount is growing.

Space in the Northwest Corridor can be quite competitive for companies that want a Boulder location, and access to its intellectual capital, but do not want to pay Boulder rents. There is still plenty of space to grow along the corridor, and that demand will spur more development as Millennials (and the businesses that employ them) move from both Boulder and Denver. 

Element Properties' Scott Holton, NGKF's David Hart, Sagebrush's Ken Cope, Pathfinder Partners' Lorne Polger, Legacy Partners' Spencer Stuart and McWhinney's Ashley Stiles, who moderated

In the current climate, our next panelists said, development needs to be creative. Not just in providing creative space, but in adapting the built environment for present-day and future tenant needs. Changing technology will require creative solutions to new challenges, such as in accommodating new forms of transit. Achieving creative solutions means paying attention to new tech, but also listening to residents, getting their input and acting on the best ideas. 

The impact of autonomous cars is coming. As soon as in the next decade, developers will have to be ready for its impact on commercial real estate, especially on what parking lots will need to be. The adjustment will not necessarily be easy. For instance, the CRE lending community might have some trouble getting its mind around what developments will need to be, and how to underwrite them, in a new transit environment. 

Even without driverless cars, developments will soon be heavily influenced by ride-sharing services and internet retail delivery, the speakers said. New commercial developments in particular need to think about ways to handle the increasing influx of Uber and Lyft and other services dropping people off at their properties, and the increasing number of packages coming as well.

Broomfield City and County director of economic development Bo Martinez, who moderated, Westminster Mayor Pro Tem Alberto Garcia and Broomfield City and County Mayor Randy Ahrens

What's the outlook for growth along U.S. 36 Creative Corridor? Solid, according to Westminster Mayor Pro Tem Alberto Garcia and Broomfield City and County Mayor Randy Ahrens. 

Garcia said Westminster has the goal of becoming the next urban center of the Front Range. That is ambitious, but doable, the mayor said. Two new projects exemplify the city's drive toward that goal. One is the first commuter rail station in the southern part of the city, Westminster Station, which is the focus of a development plan that includes a 40-acre park and a number of transit-oriented developments. Also, there is a new Downtown — 108 acres in the city, a new mixed-use area, and Westminster is working with a number of developers to bring projects out of the ground by the end of the year.

Ahrens said last year alone, Broomfield received commercial development commitments totaling $650M. The Arista project is moving forward, as is redevelopment work around Flatiron Crossing. On the north side, new commercial space is coming in, along with housing starts. Also, 28 companies have decided to call Broomfield home just in the last two years, he said.

Wiens Development owner/developer Tim Wiens

Wiens Development owner/developer Tim Wiens said the Northwest Corridor has had its ups and downs over the decades, but as a dynamic place, more ups than downs. His company developed 8181 Arista Place, where the event was held. He said the building was built on spec, is about 60% leased, and will be 100% leased by the end of this year. A rising tide lifts all boats, he said, and that is certainly the case in the corridor. 

The developer is breaking ground on a new development in Arista, called the Turnpike Shops at Arista, a 30K SF retail property at Wadsworth Parkway and 120th. The name plays homage to the turnpike, Weins said, which is the spine of the corridor.