Crowds are coming back to Downtown Denver to have fun, but the scene for office workers is a different story.
Overall, downtown visitation is at 89 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to a report this week from the Downtown Denver Partnership. But people aren’t as eager to come back to the office. Office attendance peaked at 47 percent of pre-pandemic levels in May, the report found.
There’s more than 8 million square feet of vacant office space downtown due to the increasing prevalence of hybrid and remote work, with three of four major employers surveyed by the DDP offering hybrid work options.
“Downtown office markets across the country suffered significantly over the past year and Denver was no exception,” the report’s authors wrote.
A similar trend is playing out when it comes to tourism. Denver welcomed 31.7 million visitors last year, about 15 percent more than in 2020 and just shy of the 31.9 million visitors from 2019. For overnight visitors, 14.8 million were traveling for leisure, while just 1.8 million were in Denver for business.
Retail sales are gaining steam following the pandemic lull, with tax collections in the area up 57 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the report. But it’s not all good news on that front, either, as there are a lot of empty stores. On the 16th Street Mall, one-third of ground floor space is “inactive,” according to data collected by the DDP in December.
Despite the challenges, roughly $2 billion in construction projects are underway in Denver. Major public works include the makeover of the 16th Street Mall and an expansion of the Colorado Convention Center. During the past four years, 41 projects were finished downtown, adding more than 6,000 residential units, over 1,400 hotel rooms and 2.8 million square-feet of office space.