1 Year of COVID: Pandemic takes toll on downtown Denver skyscrapers

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DENVER (KDVR) — There are few sights more spectacular than a bird’s eye view of downtown Denver after dark, but recently, far too many of our city’s skyscrapers went dark.

“I remember very clearly how quiet it was,” said Lori Greenley, who founded Denver High-Rise Living, a real estate brokerage firm, which is licensed under Keller Williams.

Greenly and others have seen downtown Denver transform during the pandemic. Empty buildings, businesses, and streets quickly became a serious side effect of COVID-19.

“Class A office space is always the most volatile when a downturn hits. Call Covid what it was, but that’s a downturn,” said Jason Aubrey.

Aubrey has not only been closely monitoring COVID-19’s impact on downtown office space, he’s been living it.

His company, PlattPointe Capital, is being forced out of the WeWorks building and into a new space, because WeWorks, a shared office space company, is shuttering several of its Denver locations.

WeWorks is not alone. Downtown Denver’s vacancy rate soared to 18.6% during the last quarter of 2020, it’s highest mark since 2011, and new development has slowed to a crawl.

“Projects are either thinner or on hold. There’s not as many cranes as there were a year ago,” Aubrey said.

That also has a trickle down impact on high rise condos and apartments.

Lori Greenly says there’s noticeably less competition right now for downtown residential units.

“Most places it’s a buyer’s market,” Greenly explained.

However, Greenly also says downtown condo prices are holding steady for now.

“In a few months I think we’re going to be where we are in the suburbs where there’s little inventory and the prices are rising,” she said.

Jason Aubrey is optimistic commercial real estate will follow.

“Specifically high rises, they’ll always rebound. They’re the city center,” he said.

Aubrey acknowledges, however, the landscape may never be the same, with many companies rethinking exactly how much space they need.

“I think the footprints are definitely going to get smaller, maybe where you can come in and out and you’re not here everyday,” he explained. “Overall I think Colorado and Denver are going to be just fine.”

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