With its release today of a comprehensive study of Denver’s retail strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to become a nationally recognized shopping destination, the City and County of Denver is one step closer to its goal to make Denver an exceptional retail city. The Denver Retail Conditions and Opportunities Study, prepared by retail consultant Economic & Planning Systems (EPS), contains a comprehensive analysis of Denver’s retail reality as well as strategic recommendations for future growth.
“Denver has so many incredible assets, particularly in new urban housing, a booming business climate, and a strong array of entertainment options and dining experiences,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “But in several critical ways, our retail environment has not kept up with the growth in Denver. While we know the city offers a number of fantastic venues and stores for our neighbors and visitors to check out, this study demonstrates we have great capacity to support many more. That is why we will use this study as a roadmap to realize our existing potential to become a truly landmark retail city.”
The presentation of the study today to the Denver City Council’s Business, Workforce and Sustainability Committee marks a major milestone in Mayor Hancock’s commitment to strengthen Denver’s retail economy. A 12-member, public/private Denver Retail Strategic Advisory Council (DRSAC), formed a year ago, oversaw the study’s development and will provide insights and advice for the creation of a formal strategic plan for retail development in the city, expected later this year.
“The study highlights the opportunities we have in our blossoming downtown, Cherry Creek and Northfield retail areas,” said Paul Washington, director of Denver’s Office of Economic Development (OED). “Moreover though, the research also shows that Denver faces significant challenges in its quest for retail strength. The study, and my discussion with the DRSAC members, highlights the importance of playing to our strengths – we will focus on the key retail locations and neighborhood districts to increase more unique, urban, destination retail. Retail today is about the experience, as much as the actual item purchased.”
The study lists Denver’s strengths in the retail sector overall to include its sales of “convenience goods,” including groceries, health and personal care products, and liquor stores, with inflows from business travelers, visitors, and non-city residents. Denver also does extremely well in its eating and drinking establishments, with a number of chef-driven restaurants and the demand of convention and business travelers.
The study also acknowledges Denver’s lack of general-merchandise retailers, such as Super Target and Costco, as one factor that contributes to what is being called the “leakage” of sales tax revenue out of the city and into surrounding areas. This weakness in general merchandise means that 65 percent of what city residents spend at warehouse or “big box” stores goes outside the city, in many cases to store locations just beyond Denver’s borders, the study reported. City residents also leave Denver to shop for home improvement, garden supplies, furniture, hobby, and music and books—with about 40 percent of their expenditures in these categories adding to the troubling rate of “leakage.”
As for geographic sites with potential, the study highlighted a number of opportunities for growth and retail redevelopment within Denver—including the former University Hospital site at 9th and Colorado, the University Hills Plaza, around the I-70 and Brighton Boulevard interchange, and Sun Valley (the latter being around Sports Authority Field and an example of the transit-oriented opportunities); the study also gave high marks to Denver’s emerging neighborhood business districts such as East Colfax, River North, and along South Broadway from 6th Avenue to Alameda.
And although limited, there are unused large-format retail sites in Denver, the study noted, including Alameda Square, Federal & Evans, and Evans & Monaco (the latter two being former K-Mart sites).
All of these findings will help Denver’s OED continue to work closely with DRSAC to address the city’s weaknesses and build a stronger approach for both recruiting retail as well as redeveloping underused parcels and better serving underserved areas, Washington said.
“Shopping center development, and shopping in general, has changed dramatically in just two decades,” he said. “OED is developing a toolkit of policies, programs and incentives for approaching retailers as well as GIS mapping technologies to enhance the city’s retail development projects. Our pressures come from growth in online shopping and a lack of ready-inventory of physical spaces to develop in the way that today’s shoppers want. This plan will help Denver adapt to this reality.”
For more information on the Denver Retail Study, visit www.denvergov.org/oed.
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