By Margaret Jackson / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) Since March 2021, downtown Denver foot traffic has steadily increased after suffering a decline when Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered people to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Downtown went from a pre-pandemic average of 250,000 people a day to a low of 40,000 to 50,000 in March and April 2020, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 2022 State of Downtown Denver Report released Thursday.
While the average number of visitors from June 2019 to June 2022 reflect an 89% return to the center city, employees in downtown buildings have been slower to return because of the increased adoption of hybrid and remote work models by many employers. About 51% of employees have returned to the office.
The pandemic disrupted the 3% average annual employment growth downtown enjoyed over the past decade, with about 20,000 jobs lost and a negative 14% growth rate in 2021.
But the good news is that Denver is resilient and employment grew by 8% over the last year, adding about 10,000 jobs from 2020 to 2021.
Leisure and hospitality, the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, had the highest growth rate of 52%, demonstrating the return to in-person dining and travel.
The tech sector, which accounts for about 13% of downtown’s total employment, grew 21% from 2020 to 2021. Companies like FileInvite, Finder, Melio, DataDog and Strive Health have relocated or expanded their offices in Denver, citing the talent, educational institutions, quality of life and accessibility as some of the reasons they chose Denver.
Downtown’s strength continues to attract new development and investment.
Over the past four years, 41 projects have been completed downtown, bringing more than $3.2 billion in investment between 2018 and May 2022.
The projects added 6,084 residential units, 2.8 million square feet of office space and 1,434 hotel rooms. The mixed-use McGregor Square and Market Station properties and the 30-story Block 162 office building are among the completed projects.
Fourteen projects are now under construction representing more than $2 billion in investment. The 16th Street Mall reconstruction started this year, and the Colorado Convention Center expansion began in 2021.
The Convention Center expansion, slated for completion in 2023, will add 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting and ballroom space, 35,000 square feet of pre-function space and a 20,000-square-foot outdoor terrace with mountain and skyline views.
Denver also experienced a significant rebound in tourism in 2021. Denver International Airport ranked third busiest in the world with 58.8 million passengers, and the city welcomed 151,000 meeting attendees who spent $313 million in more than 400 meetings.