Over the last decade, LoDo and Uptown Denver grew into high energy business hubs, attracting talent and residents from all over the country. Pre-pandemic, Downtown Denver had a somewhat faster pace than the rest of the city during the workweek. With a large professional workforce, over 100,000 people commuted, grabbed coffee for the office and ate out for lunch with co-workers. Denver welcomed the steady investment in office space downtown. But right now, most office spaces are empty. City planners and companies aren’t certain what will happen to them.
While the creation of Zoom Towns caused a mass exodus from New York, San Francisco and Seattle, Denver actually gained residents. A large number of old and new residents work remote, causing a steep office space vacancy of 17%. Downtown Denver Partnership reports that pre-pandemic, as many as 110,000 workers commuted into downtown. Since then, the in person workforce plummeted to 25,000.
A Hybrid Workforce Is Here To Stay
A growing number of residents who work remote in Downtown Denver plan to remain remote. While population gain and talent growth rates remain steady, office vacancy isn’t expected to rebound in the short term. Right now, Denver has the second-fastest labor force growth in the country, as reported by Downtown Denver Partnership. The report details that Denver’s labor force makeup. It’s a new blend of in-person workers, permanent remote workers and hybrid professionals. Additionally, companies with offices in Downtown Denver aren’t quite firm on their return to work policies. This leaves a lot up in the air.
Much of Downtown Denver’s work appeal lies in the faster, vibrant daily pace of LoDo or Upper Downtown. However, a return to pre-pandemic foot traffic is unlikely. It’s clear that the city needs to adjust planning and development to a hybrid workforce that’s not going anywhere.
Denver has the growth and resources necessary for full workforce resilience. City planners need a creative approach.
Downtown Denver’s Plan
Now, the city looks to embrace a hybrid work model. This year, the city is optimistic a good portion of the workforce will return in person, and others will come into the office a few days a week. Adding more workers to the office brings back foot traffic for local restaurants, breweries, and gyms.
“The data [from Downtown Denver Partnership Annual Report] is showing strong signs of recovery after over a year of disproportionate impact on the center city and our businesses. Through innovation, continued investment in key infrastructure, a commitment to an inclusive city, and a culture of collaboration, we will continue on this strong path forward toward the economic strength we enjoyed pre-pandemic,” said Tami Door, President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership.
Getting Creative With Office Space
As for office space, Downtown Denver plans to attract new companies looking to set up an office on a sublease. They also plan to earn investment for more coworking spaces. Startups in tech, business and small media companies are all potential investors in flexible office space. Remote workers don’t have to work from home anymore, and coworking spaces provide a great level of flexibility.
“Excess sublease space provides an opportunity for new firms to secure downtown office space at flexible and affordable terms,” said Britt Diehl, Senior Manager, Public Policy and Special Projects Manager for Downtown Denver Partnership.
Downtown Denver Partnership is hopeful that steady growth of residents and attracting office space investment will balance out the currently uneven downtown economy. Building the foundation to support a hybrid workforce will make Denver more competitive for attracting talent and flexible work spaces in the long term.
Instead of a return to normal, it’s possible that Downtown Denver is evolving into something better suited for young professionals.
Downtown Denver Partnership recently released their Annual State of Downtown Denver Report. You can learn more here.