In Denver crickets chirp year-round (a crosswalk signal for the visually impaired) and decades of steady redevelopment have transformed downtown into a shopping, entertainment and
In Denver crickets chirp year-round (a crosswalk signal for the visually impaired) and decades of steady redevelopment have transformed downtown into a shopping, entertainment and restaurant venue, luring newcomers to city and suburbia at a pace that has consistently outperformed the national average every decade since the 1930s. With a projected population of 3.9 million by 2030 – it now stands at 2.7 million – Denver is one dynamic destination.
Like many other hot residential real estate markets, tax woes of other states (hello, California) and the need to flock with family are driving newcomers to Colorado and Denver. The metro area enjoys a robust economic outlook and its median household income is 15.6 percent above the national average.
Renaissance and Reinvention
Just as the cherry trees blossom each spring around the state capitol building, rebirth seems to be the Mile High City’s mantra. Industrial warehouses are taking on new life as live-work lofts and multistory brownstones for single-family living. During the past few years Denver has birthed several new museums, completed a $1.5-billion public-private revitalization of 14th Street, and is embarking on major restoration of the 20-year-old mile-long I.M. Pei-designed 16th Street Mall. Even quarterback Peyton Manning has grown up here – professionally anyway – from a Colt to a Bronco.
Denver is one hip city, a combination of cosmopolitan and culture with a cool factor provided by students and grads of the University of Colorado and a dash of curiosity: a 40-foot peeping tom blue bear sculpture peering into the convention center, a national rodeo and, of course, beer. Denver is Travel & Leisure’s No. 2 best beer city (it was No. 1 in 2012).
Come winter many full-time resident take advantage of famed skiing destinations just an hour or two away, either driving in for the day or roosting in a family condo or chalet.
“There’s an interesting phenomenon in Denver,” says Terry Oakes, a broker with Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty who spends winters on the mountains as a ski instructor. “Many people in Colorado are empty nesters with a primary home in Vail, Aspen or one of the mountain towns and they have a pied-à-terre in Denver for shopping, visiting the doctor or seeing the Rockies or Broncos play. Then there are families whose primary residence is in Denver and they have a condo in Vail for skiing.
Denver’s strength and growth helped its residential real estate survive the great recession without the drastic dives in pricing of other markets.
“Denver wasn’t hit as hard as other parts of country because we peaked early – back in 1999 and 2000 – and learned a lesson” says Douglas Kerbs, a Fuller Sotheby broker representing a $5.9 million home in the Polo Club. “Appreciation has been steady but modest. Our economy is poised very well with industries, investment in renewable energy and a lot of tech.”
This year, home sales are on pace for record numbers and inventory is so low, realtors simply sigh when asked about luxury single-family homes. The city’s MLS recently offered up just 150 priced over $1 million, the beginning of Denver’s luxury barometer.
Here, however, $1 million gets you more home than most places, including a three-story 1903 Emerson Street home with a gracious columned front porch, tall ceilings, original millwork, wood floors, plaster relief and 4,400 square feet. Mere blocks from the governor’s mansion, the so-called Denver Square-style home was designed by local architect F.E. Edbrooke and is listed by Christie’s affiliated Kentwood Real Estate.
“Compared to other cities like Los Angeles or New York, a $1 million home in Denver is a mansion with the benefit of land,” says Oakes. “Neighborhoods like Cherry Hills Village have a country kind of setting with one to three acres. Greenwood Village also has large homes.”
Both communities are just 10 to 20 minutes from downtown, depending on traffic.
Sales activity in Denver’s million-dollar and up market jumped 42 percent between August 2012 and 2013. So far this year, the top sale is an $8.69 million home sold in April.
Kerbs observes many buyers are relocating from highly taxed states along the East and West coasts. There’s also a lot of interest from foreign buyers and parents following their children.
“The luxury buyer is coming here from both coasts because of the quality of life and the idea of good clean living,” he says. “Denver has the bluest skies you’ve ever seen and more than 300 days of sunshine. We have the finest theater district west of the Kennedy Center, art museums and performing arts and great restaurants.”
Most of Denver’s coveted addresses hug historic downtown or preside from the surrounding hilltops. Among them are the historic Country Club neighborhood near the Denver Country Club and the apropos-named Hilltop where 1940s-era homes mingle with newer construction and showcase “beautiful views of downtown and the Front Range of the Rockies,” says Oakes. “Denver has one of the most vibrant downtowns in the entire nation.”
The abandoned warehouse district is also undergoing transformation, carving brownstones from former industrial space.
“Single-family homes are rare downtown but we do occasionally have opportunities,” says Dee Chirafisi, a realtor with Kentwood Real Estate who specializes in downtown. “We have brownstone-type buildings that are single owner and usually have two or three stories, a rooftop terrace and are attached by a party wall.”
Former industrial warehouses dating back to the late 1890s and some old churches have become candidates for homes priced from $1.5 million to $2.5 million for a five-bedroom, 7,050-square residence in popular LoDo (Lower Denver) but taken off the market. “These brownstones are few and far between,” Chirafisi says. “They’re right downtown in the gaslight district, near a big beautiful park, all the great restaurants and boutiques.”
“Denver’s claim to fame is you can be skiing in the morning and playing golf in the afternoon,” Oakes says. “It can be sunny and hot in the city with blizzard in the mountains.”
by Nancy Theoret
– Courtesy of the James Edition