Mar 8, 2024 - News

Denver's office recovery shows signs of life — but struggles persist

An aerial view of Denver's skyline at sunset. Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Denver's office foot traffic is improving, but still shows signs of trouble.

By the numbers: Visits to local office buildings were up 15% last month compared to the same time last year, according to a new report from Placer.ai, a startup that tracks and analyzes foot traffic from mobile devices.

  • However, Denver's recovery rate for office visits still trails the national average of nearly 19% and remains down about 34% since February 2020.

State of play: At an event this week hosted by the University of Colorado Real Estate Center, Mayor Mike Johnston said the city is facing an "existential fight for the soul of downtown," the Denver Gazette reports.

  • Over the next 18 months, he plans to double down on downtown efforts by boosting safety, keeping encampments closed and converting empty office buildings into housing.

What they're saying: Many business leaders say Johnston's push over the last six months to house 1,000 people and make downtown safer has helped the area and driven the recent uptick in foot traffic, Dave Davia, president of business-backed nonprofit Colorado Concern, tells us.

  • Homeless encampments and crime were "barriers" that kept people from going into the office, "so hats off to the mayor and his team for moving mountains," he says.

Yes, but: Downtown has a long way to go before it's back on its feet.

  • Its vacancy rate was 31.5% at the end of last year, the highest level since the '90s, according to the most recent data from commercial real estate firm CBRE.

The big picture: A recent survey from the Conference Board, a think tank, found just six out of 158 U.S. CEOs are prioritizing bringing workers back to the office full-time this year, with many coming to terms with a world where hybrid work arrangements are the norm, Axios Markets' Emily Peck writes.

  • "The battle" to get butts in seats "is over," Diana Scott, human capital center leader at the Conference Board, said in a statement. "There are so many other issues CEOs are facing."
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