May 22, 2023 - News

Denver's downtown office conversion study underway

Downtown Denver office buildings in 2016. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Denver has started looking at downtown offices to determine whether they're suitable for residential living.

Details: A feasibility study launched last month will look at up to 30 downtown office buildings to see whether they can be converted into housing, city planning department spokesperson Laura Swartz tells us.

Why it matters: Converting office space into housing is a novel way Denver officials are exploring building more housing.

Reality check: Redeveloping former offices is not cheap, and the amount of housing it will add to a city's overall stock is small, according to a report from the Brookings Institute released in April.

  • Another study looking at San Francisco said conversions there can cost between $472,000 to $633,000 per unit.

Between the lines: The long-term effect of bringing more housing downtown could draw more people back to the area, which is struggling to regain foot traffic lost during the pandemic.

Zoom in: The study will evaluate physical aspects like floor plate sizes, mechanical systems and proximity to transit to determine whether conversion is feasible.

  • Architectural firm Gensler has been hired to complete the work.

What they're saying: "Results will help guide conversations, led by city staff, with property owners and developers to encourage and support residential conversions, and provide more space for more people to make downtown their home," Swartz tells us.

What's next: Swartz said the city is aiming to complete its work by summer or early fall.


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