Friday, July 16, 2010

Davita Announces Location Near Union Station

(Artist rendering of proposed Davita Headquarters, Downloaded from DenverInfill blog, Courtesy of Davita Inc./Moma Architecture)

Davita, the Fortune 500 kidney care company that is relocating its corporate headquarters to Denver, selected a site at 2000 16th street, near Union Station for its new building. The 14 story 270,000 square foot building is expected to cost around $100 million to develop and will initially house an estimated 450 employees. The relocation of a new corporate headquarters to Denver, near Union Station, is great news during the current economic environment for a number of reasons.

  1. It will bring much needed short term construction and long term corporate jobs to the region.

  2. It is a vote of confidence in the Union Station redevelopment efforts, boosting the property tax revenues in the district and helping to ensure repayment of the tax increment financing (TIF) bonds used to fund the redevelopment.

  3. The location near the FasTracks public transportation hub is great example of sustainable, green, dense, infill growth.

  4. Its a boost for downtown Denver which is reeling from the recent loss of notable headquarters such as Qwest.

  5. Fortune 500 relocations are rare and have been hard to achieve particularly in Denver and bring prestige and professional services jobs with them (local finance, accounting, consulting, and business services companies get a boost). Davita also plans to house its corporate training hub in this facility so it will bring thousands of business travelers into downtown Denver each year.

  6. Davita's choice to be an owner-occupier of their building instead of a lessee in a multi-tenant office tower, increases the probability that the building will be an architecturally distinctive signature tower. Compared to speculative developers, owner-occupiers tend to spend more on architecture and design, seeing their building's as embodiments of corporate character instead of just trying to maximize the cash flows of their assets.

This development along with the decision by IMA Financial Group to locate its headquarters in one of the Union Station "wing" buildings, clearly shows the powerful gravitational pull of FasTracks. According to the Denver Post quoting, Davita CEO Kent Thiry, on the location decision:

"It's going to be great for our teammates," Thiry said. "The fact that there's so many forms of mass transit, the fact that there will be a huge variety of places where people can live conveniently and the fact that there will be such easy access to restaurants, shopping, entertainment, all while being in a green environment is sort of a rare combination."

The Davita announcement is great news for economic activity in all of downtown Denver. However, I am also thinking that this is the beginning of a trend where the classic 17th street office corridor in downtown Denver, nicknamed "the Wall Street of the Rockies," could struggle to retain tenants and lease space while Union Station and Lower Downtown thrives. 17th Street landlords and property owners must be strategizing about how they can "pick up their game" with increased amenities and attractions or suffer a relative decline in their fortunes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Front Range Cluster Deepens

[Photo to left from, concept of new research facility planned for Louisville, CO]

This past week there were a several exciting sustainable energy announcements in Metro Denver boosting the status of the regional green energy cluster.

Vestas announced it will open an R&D engineering site in Louisville, Colorado strengthening the company's presence in the Front Range.

The U.S. Department of Energy granted two Metro Denver companies, ADA-ES in Littleton and Ion Engineering in Boulder, $14 million to fund development of technology to capture carbon dioxide released during the burning of coal in electric power plants.

President Obama announced a $400 million federal loan guarantee to Abound Solar, a Loveland-based company, started in part by Colorado State University engineering faculty. The federally financed expansion will bring an estimated 300 new jobs to the company's manufacturing facility in Longmont.

The Vestas Press Release describes the importance of Colorado to the company's long term plans and the reasons behind its decision to concentrate its North American production facilities in the state.

"Denver, Colo. – (July 7, 2010) – Vestas, the world’s leader in producing high-tech wind power systems, announced today that it will open an Engineering Site in Louisville, Colo., to support Vestas Global and enhance Vestas’ wind power production capabilities throughout North America. Vestas will move 46 employees into 47,675 square feet of space on Centennial Parkway, Louisville starting today, and will expand this team to include up to 125 highly skilled engineers within a year’s time.

The Vestas Engineering Site will enhance Vestas’ ability to integrate product development by placing it close to the company’s three factories – a blades’ factory in Windsor, a nacelles-assembly factory in Brighton and towers’ factory Pueblo, thereby better servicing and meeting the needs of Vestas’ North American customers.

“Vestas has made a deep commitment to Colorado, which is evidenced in our factories and the establishment of the Engineering Site. We are extremely committed to Colorado, and we look forward to a long, successful relationship here,” said Finn Madsen, President Vestas Technology R&D. “By co-locating engineering and design competencies with the production cluster in Colorado, the proximity of Technology R&D to manufacturing creates significant efficiencies that can be passed along as a direct benefit to our customers.”

Vestas decided to build its North American production facilities in Colorado because of the state’s central location, extensive transportation infrastructure and rail system, existing manufacturing base and skilled workforce. "

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Buffs Join Pac-10

(Photo from Pac-10 website

As a native Boulderite, long time Buffs fan who grew up going to CU football games and Pac-10 school alumni who holds Cal Men's Basketball season tickets to this day, I feel compelled to comment on the the recent announcement that CU will be joining the Pac-10 along with Utah to create the Pac-12.

First, a note about my recent dearth of blog entries. In May and June, both my wife and my mother were ill. Thankfully, both are doing much better now and I have the time and energy to return to blogging.

From an economic development perspective this announcement is a very positive step for Boulder and Metro Denver because it helps reinforce existing academic, scientific, geographic and cultural ties between Colorado and the West Coast of the United States where a significant degree of scientific and technological innovation occurs. To take one small example of the scientific brain power on the West Coast, the University of California at Berkeley, where I went to graduate school, is the only school that I know of that has so many Nobel Laureates on the Faculty that it dedicates a parking lot for prize winners with free parking in the center of campus. CU's affiliation with the Pac-10 schools will buttress the Metro Denver area's status as a regional "technopole" and help tie Boulder to the innovation infrastructure in Silicon Valley.

For many years Colorado has felt competing gravitational pulls between Texas and the West Coast. The New York Times once described Denver as a mix between Portland, Oregon and Houston, Texas. By taking its flagship public university into the Pac-10 (and turning away from the Texas dominated Big 12), Colorado is pointing west towards a future where global economic influence shifts to the Pacific Rim and technological innovation remains a key to economic success.

Now a bit about what all this means from a football rivalry perspective. One of the things that makes college football so compelling is continuity and the loss of the Nebraska and other Big Eight rivalries is undoubtedly a blow to tradition. I will certainly miss the annual post-thanksgiving game against the Huskers. Nebraska undoubtedly got the better of this series but CU got in a few good shots over the years (can anyone say "62-36" or "back to back Big Eight champs 1989 and 1990"?). The CU-Nebraska rivalry has always had a bit of a nasty edge to it with Nebraska partisans thinking the Buffs were not a worthy rival and CU fans smug, but accurate, sense of geographic superiority over "corn land." Things really heated up in the 1980s when Bill McCartney painted the Nebraska game in RED CAPs on the Colorado schedule and Tom Osborne treacherously cost the Buffs the 1990 UPI National Championship in the Coaches' Poll by voting for Georgia Tech.

If Nebraska had broken up the Big 12 by heading to the Big 10 and Colorado had ended up in the Mountain West due the machinations of Texas politics it would have been a final Husker insult to Colorado that would have stung for decades. In any case, Colorado now has a chance to revive a classic geographic rivalry with our new Pac-12 travel partner, the University of Utah, a budding football powerhouse. The Buffs are going to have to rev up our athletic program to compete with the Pac-10 and our new foes in Salt Lake City.