Downtown Denver Partnership: Impact of place-based economic development strategy driving significant growth for entire region

April 20, 2017

The Downtown Denver Partnership released today its 2017 State of Downtown Denver report. The annual report, funded in part by the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, is one of the most comprehensive statistical looks at the stories and statistics behind a thriving center city, detailing increasing investment, strong office market fundamentals, a growing and highly-educated workforce and vibrant residential population in Downtown Denver. 

“Great cities do not happen by accident. Our thriving center city is a result of a strategic vision to build one of the most economically powerful center cities in the country, and the metrics outlined in the 2017 State of Downtown Denver signal great success,” said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “Our residential population is expanding at unprecedented rates, $2.8 billion is being invested through development projects, we’ve added 6,000 jobs and 23 new companies have re-located to or opened a new office in the center city to grow their business in the last 24 months.” 

At a breakfast attended by 650 business and civic leaders and sponsored by Husch Blackwell, Door highlighted the impact of place-based economic development efforts to meet the vision outlined in the 2007 Downtown Area Plan, the long-term strategy for Downtown, are having on center city economic strength and vitality. 

Development and Investment
With a vision for the future, developers are responding to increased demand for residential, office and hotel product propelled by strong population and job growth. 42 total projects are under construction or planned, representing $2.8 billion in investment that will add more than 1,000 hotel rooms, 5,000 residential units and 2.5 million square feet of office space. This development translates to capacity for 6,300 residents, 8,800 employees and nearly 310,000 new visitor nights. 

Office Market and Employers
An increasing number of companies are locating in Downtown Denver, indicative of its reputation as one of the best places in the country to start and grow a business. 23 companies relocated or opened a new office in the center city over the past 24 months, including seven corporate headquarter relocations. As a growing hub of technology and innovation, most of these relocations and expansions were in the technology sector, which also saw 160 tech startups founded over the past year. 

Workforce
Downtown Denver’s highly educated and in-demand workforce is growing to support the center city as an epicenter of business and innovation. Downtown Denver’s workforce of 130,227 people grew at a rate of 17 percent since 2010, outpacing the national rate of 11 percent. Employment growth is led by new and growing private-sector businesses, where employment is up 21 percent. 

Residents
Attracted to vibrant walkable districts and high-quality residential amenities, more and more people – nearly 80,000 – are choosing to live in Downtown Denver and its center city neighborhoods. Population in the Downtown core has tripled since 2000. More than 66 percent of Downtown residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher and nearly one quarter of Downtown households don’t own a car. 

Retail and Restaurants
Downtown’s residential renaissance, alongside its growing employee base, is encouraging new retail development, including first-to-market and new-to-Downtown options that create a diverse retail scene. Retail sales tax collections in Downtown Denver have increased almost 60 percent since 2010 to total $52 million in 2016, outpacing the City and County of Denver as a whole. Retail sales tax collection is anchored by restaurants, which make up 44 percent of the revenue. 

Mobility
A robust mobility network enhances options for all Downtown users, connecting to surrounding neighborhoods and strengthening economic development opportunities. Downtown has the highest number, and most variety, of transportation options in the region, including two new rail lines opening in the last year. In 2016, 40 percent of commuters drove alone, with the same number using transit, and an increasing number are walking or biking to work. Comprehensive details about commuting trends is available in the Downtown Denver Commuter Survey (released January 2016). 

Tourism and Attractions
Premier hotels, award-winning restaurants and unique experiences, alongside a new direct rail connection to Denver International Airport, make Downtown Denver a world-class destination at the center of the metro areas record-setting tourism industry which welcomed an all-time high of 16.4 million overnight visitors who spent $5 billion in 2016. Downtown’s 35 hotels with 9,500 rooms and more than 500,000 square feet of meeting space have seen strong growth, with Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) up 26 percent, Average Daily Room Rate up 20 percent, and occupancy up 5 percent over the past five years. 

Public Space and Activation
Through energizing public spaces and districts, tens of millions of people enjoy and engage with Downtown each year. Signature events produced by the Partnership and Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, including upcoming summer programs like the Skyline Beer Garden and A Taste of Colorado, bring more than 1.2 million people Downtown each year. 

Students and Universities
A diverse array of educational opportunities, from traditional universities to coding schools, help build the workforce of the future and ensure Downtown businesses have access to top talent. 58,000 students are being educated right here in the center city at a variety of educational institutions. 

Following an overview of the report, four center city leaders presented a passionate case for the metric they feel most strongly measure’s Downtown’s economic vitality. Attendees voted on which area they thought was the most important, and nearly half chose employment. Following the lively debate, moderated by Rob Cohen, CEO of IMA Financial and chair of the Partnership’s Downtown Denver Inc. Board of Directors, residential took the top spot moving from 20 percent to receiving 40 percent of the vote.  

  • Ken Schroeppel, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver, on the residential population: “Housing is a game changer. If bustling sidewalks are a signal of vitality, we have housing to thank.”
  • Cedric Buchanon, city president of BBVA Compass – Metropolitan Denver, on employment: “Employers and employees have made a smart bet on Denver, and Denver has delivered. You can come here and build a better future.”
  • Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, executive director of Civic Center Conservancy, on public realm investment: “Parks and public spaces are how you maintain the economic health of a city, and sustain growth. They help you fall in love, and stay in love, with our city.”
  • Greg Leonard, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, on hospitality & retail: “The growth of Denver has mirrored growth of tourism. When hospitality is healthy, our city is healthy.” 

“Denver’s center city is a powerful economic engine for the region, and the Downtown Denver Partnership will continue to play a significant role in sustaining this economic momentum,” said Walter Isenberg, chair of the Downtown Denver Partnership and co-founder, president and CEO of Sage Hospitality. 

For more information and to view the complete 2017 State of Downtown Denver report, visit www.downtowndenver.com.