DENVER (KDVR) — Denver’s downtown cannot seem to recover its pre-pandemic foot traffic.
Researchers at the University of Toronto School of Cities analyzed the amount of cell phone activity in a given area as a proxy for foot traffic. They compared stretches of time since the pandemic to the same stretches of time before the pandemic began.
At no point in the last three years has Denver’s downtown foot traffic been more than two-thirds of its pre-pandemic levels. During the period from March-May 2023, Denver’s downtown traffic was at an average of 56% of what it had been in 2019.
Denver’s downtown has one of the lower rates among U.S. cities, ranking 35th among 52 cities. Only four cities — Salt Lake City, Utah; Bakersfield, California; Fresno, California; and El Paso, Texas — have fully recovered their pre-pandemic levels of foot traffic.
No single factor determined if a city’s downtown was more or less likely to recover its pre-pandemic levels, but some have common links.
Remote work and housing density play a big role in how cities are recovering. Cities that have fully recovered are less dense, have a lower presence of tech and finance workers and have higher levels of car commuters.