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This week, U.S. News & World Report honored Denver as its currently most desirable place to live in the country, just ahead of Austin, Texas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Citing a metro area population of more than 2.6 million, median home price of just over $300,000, and median annual salary of about $53,000, the magazine calls the Mile High City “a burgeoning tech hub and a popular destination for millennials looking to start their careers.”
Although we can’t argue with any of this, it doesn’t mean that longtime Denverites have to like it. We all want jobs and affordable housing, and outside affirmations of how cool the rest of the world thinks we are can make you feel like part of something special.
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But there’s a downside to the accolades, and it comes in the form of increased traffic, higher rents, longer waits at restaurants, and coastal influences that range from welcome—such as better options for food and drink, music and culture—to repellent.
Take the growth of our area as a technology center. This is obviously a net positive by a large margin; if smart, creative entrepreneurs want to move here and bring jobs with them, what city wouldn’t want that?
On the other hand, such migration also brings an intangible yet palpable increase in obnoxiousness. This is rampant in more established tech hubs, in which these budding “geniuses”—some actual but many faux—steamroll the culture. Having lived in the Bay Area for 15 years during the Internet Era’s nascent days before moving here in 2006, I’m well acquainted with these folks. They yak brashly and loudly into their smartphones at restaurants or during concerts. They obnoxiously rev their Maserati engines at stoplights because they think it’s funny to alarm the pedestrians in the crosswalk in front of them. They parachute in from San Francisco or New York with the windfall from their million-dollar bungalow or Midtown flat and outbid local families on our most desirable, once-affordable townhomes and condos. (Good luck finding many desirable properties in that median $300K price range.)
Hey, it’s their money, that’s capitalism, places evolve, and times change. But one of the initial impressions outsiders invariably have when they visit Colorado for the first time is how friendly everyone is. It was one of the most apparent things about Denver that I first noticed, and it remains true today. But it becomes slightly less true with every new self-important transplant that arrives.
We don’t want people to stop relocating here; it’s good for our economy and for our national and international influence in any number of categories. We just need to be sure that as we’re trying to become more worldly, we don’t lose sight of all the things we can do to remain warmly and authentically Coloradan.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.