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It’s 10:45 a.m. on a Friday, and I’m writing this at my kitchen counter. I’ve had a cup of tea but no shower, and there’s a good chance I won’t put on shoes today. Three years ago, this scene only would have unfolded on a workday if I’d had a nasty cold. Today, I’m one of thousands of Denverites who once worked downtown every single day—in my case, for about 15 years—but now only venture into the city center a couple of times a week. I really like wearing yoga pants to “work,” but I know I’m part of the problem.
The issue, of course, is that without its full cohort of office workers, downtown Denver has lost some of its lifeblood. Even on the busiest days, the streets still sometimes feel a little spiritless. Tourists clearly outnumber locals; empty storefronts stare out from behind papered-over windows; and that sandwich shop on the corner doesn’t have enough reliable workers to keep consistent hours. The reports of increased violent crime—particularly in Union Station and the Central Business District—and the obvious presence of law enforcement officers don’t help the ambience much either. But, to misquote Mark Twain, rumors of the death of downtown have been greatly exaggerated.
In this issue’s “The Future Of Downtown Denver,” contributing editor Daliah Singer explains that there are signs of returning vitality: Foot traffic is increasing, sales tax collection is rebounding, and office spaces are being leased at pre-pandemic rates. Plus, city officials, gutsy entrepreneurs, and do-good nonprofits are working diligently to provide solutions to the very real challenges Denver’s core is facing.
As the editor of Denver’s city magazine, I feel compelled to suggest we all put on real pants and fill those cubicles, but I also want to acknowledge that what we’ve experienced over the past two and a half years has changed us. We may never be who we were as people or as a city, and that’s OK. We just need to figure out who we want to be now and take the steps to get there.