The South I-25 Corridor Study was originally completed in 2016 and was designed to evaluate employment, real estate, housing, and transportation trends in the corridor. Denver South commissioned an update in early 2023 to identify the new trends, opportunities, and challenges the region is projected to encounter over the next 20 years.

Anyone who drives through Denver South can appreciate how the region has changed since 2016.  We’ve added transit infrastructure, experienced an increase of mixed-use development, and have enjoyed a whopping 14% job growth. And, we’ve weathered a pandemic.

With preliminary findings in hand, the October Denver South Partnership Meeting provided a first glimpse at the new data uncovered. These findings were presented by Matt Prosser, Principal for Economic Planning Systems (EPS) and Cady Dawson, Principal for Felsburg Holt & Ullevig.

Changing Employment Landscape

Prosser began by emphasizing Denver South’s status as a premier employment area. Specifically, the region is strong in the core industries of Aviation and Aerospace, Broadband and Digital Communication, Engineering Services, Financial Services, Healthcare and Life Sciences, and IT/Software and Electronics. These sectors have experienced strong growth while others—primarily administrative services (often including call centers, which have become remote), retail, and food services—have seen a decline.

Trends Driving Change

Three major trends driving change in the corridor were identified:

Diversification of Land Use Mix: The corridor is experiencing a transformation driven by the growth of housing. More than 22,000 housing units have been added since 2000. Projections indicate the number of housing units will double in the next two decades. This diversification is reshaping the area.

Office Evolution: Over the years, office space development in the corridor has shifted from dense towers in the 1970s and 1980s to more sprawling designs in the 1990s. Since the 2008 recession there has been a return to density. This has been driven largely by transit accessibility. Over 80% of post-2006 developments in Denver South are located within half a mile of a transit station. These newer projects tend to have the lowest vacancy levels. Notably, there has been a key shift in less space demanded per employee. This shift has been driven by efficient floor plans and the rise of hybrid and remote work models.

Changing Norms in Office Work: Prosser highlighted the new normal for office work, with most employers in Denver South adopting flexible work schedules. In their research of 19 Denver South companies, representing over 17,000 of the region’s employees, they found employees are in-office an average of 3.3 days per week, which is in line with national trends.

The Future of Employment

Denver South is projected to add 53,000 jobs over the next 20 years. This will require approximately 12 million new square feet of office space. With most employers interviewed for the study indicating a desire to stay in Denver South, the central question lies in whether this growth will lead to an expansion of existing inventory or a replacement of outdated spaces.

This will result in a shift in land use patterns, including housing in traditional office parks and the redevelopment of older, less-accessible offices. As developers and employers seek out opportunities for development, a greater priority will be placed on location quality. Employees increasingly want to work in offices near amenities, transit options, and housing. These considerations will be imperative as we seek to make the most of these opportunities and ensure sustainable growth.

Changing Mobility Patterns

Cady Dawson then delved into the mobility transitions that have occurred in the Denver South corridor over the past decade. Since 2013 Denver South has seen significant shifts in mobility. Shifts include the rise of car-sharing, micromobility options, microtransit services, and zero-emission vehicles. These shifts have been accompanied by the lasting impacts of the pandemic, which led to a decrease in transit ridership and a shift in peak road traffic timing.

As the region continues to flourish, Dawson noted the challenges that will come with population growth, including key roadways that will be at or beyond capacity. These challenges will be especially acute along I-25 south of C-470, where much of the region’s growth is projected to occur.

Compounding this challenge has been the slow recovery of mass transit following the pandemic. Light rail usage in the Denver South corridor stands at only 46% of pre-pandemic levels, with bus and flex ride services experiencing similar low ridership. However, services like the Lone Tree Link on Demand and micromobility, such as Spin at Meridian, have seen strong growth in demand. These programs offer a template for micromobility and microtransit solutions that could be repeated across the region to help alleviate congestion concerns.

In response to these changing mobility patterns, Dawson identified several needs and opportunities in order to secure the region’s transportation future. These include:

  • Improved safety and security on transit
  • Enhanced housing and mobility options
  • Development of mobility hubs supported by microtransit and micromobility services
  • Adaptation to new traffic patterns
  • Investment in zero emission vehicle infrastructure

Dawson stated that small investments in these opportunities now will be key in creating a sustainable transportation future for the region.

Looking to the Future

Coming out of the meeting, we are excited about the future of the region. While we certainly have challenges, we also know we have some of the best and brightest minds working hard to ensure Denver South continues to be a premier location in which one can live, work, and play.

To provide your feedback on the South I-25 Corridor Study, click here.

To complete the 2023 Commuter Survey, click here.

To be notified when the study is released, click here.

We hope you can join us Thursday, December 7th to Celebrate the Holidays with Denver South. For details and to register, click here.