Rundles wrap up: Hot or not –

This is an exciting time to be living in Colorado, as there is an obvious economic boom underway, manifest mostly in visible construction, and it is truly something to behold. And this isn’t just some idle observation: I have been witnessing the booms and busts of our fair state and its capital city up-close for nearly 40 years as a business reporter. Still, I have never seen anything quite like what is happening now.

But it begs some serious questions. For one: Who the hell is living in all of the apartments that are springing up everywhere?

We used to joke in the late 1970s that the State Bird of Colorado was the Crane – the construction crane, because so many skyscrapers were rising out of a relatively low-rise, low-key downtown. We were breaking stories that seemed to spring up every week about the latest massive development downtown, and everyone was wildly excited about the economic impact statewide what with new jobs being created and new companies coming to town. The commercial office space vacancy rate was at an all-time low and the money was flowing in to meet demand. Just a few short years later in 1984, the price of oil collapsed, and it all ended abruptly with vacancies soaring.    

Back then oil fueled the boom and the bust. I don’t know what is causing Colorado’s current explosion – craft beer, technology, the reinvention of the great outdoors – but I do know, because I learned it way back when, the boom will eventually burst. “Boom,” in economic terms, means “a period of unsustainable growth.” So by its very nature, while exciting, it is very troubling.

There is, of course, plenty to celebrate. The new Union Station in downtown Denver is probably the most beautiful project, new or redeveloped, ever completed in Colorado, and it is now the centerpiece of a vibrant and expanding downtown. To see the light-rail corridor heading out of city center to DIA and the growth that will continue along its route, particularly on the Stapleton property, is stunning. To look these days at the Boulder Turnpike and the communities bursting at the seams from the Platte Valley to the Flatirons is mind-boggling. And it’s nearly everywhere, up and down I-25 from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, along I-70 from east of Aurora west to the Utah border, in revitalized and now-crowded neighborhoods throughout Denver, and in packed bars and restaurants, filled with people with seemingly unlimited supplies of expendable income. Something economic here is hot, hot, hot.

I appreciate it, for sure. Colorado is quickly becoming the kind of place – the kind of community – that I envisioned and hoped for way back when. It is fun and exciting, and there seems to be something new to discover every week. Almost every day I’m like, “Wow, when did that happen?”

But I can’t help thinking that it is all too much, too fast. I was driving around recently, looking at all of the new construction and I noticed one of those bon mots that so many churches post these days, and it asked, “Why don’t we question the fairness of life when good things happen?” Yup, we tend to think we are owed the blessings, but that loss is bad luck.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m lovin’ it. There has never been a better time to be in Colorado.

But I wouldn’t invest any money in apartment construction.

Categories: Business Insights, Magazine Articles