Denver Office Market Report Q1 2022
The Denver office market is showing early signs of recovery, but still has a long way to go before it reaches pre-pandemic levels of performance. Tenants are again making long-term decisions, and leasing volume in the last four quarters has resembled 2019 levels while the average lease size continues to trend upward. Sublease inventory declined further this year with 176 million SF currently available, down from the record-high of 4.7 million SF that was recorded in 21Q1. Zynex, Charlotte's Web, DCP Midstream, and AT&T have taken down large blocks of sublease space in the last year, just as the pace of new listings coming to market has slowed.
There are plenty of positives to keep the momentum going. Denver's office market is supported by a diverse mix of industries, including tech companies, oil & gas firms, aerospace and defense contractors, and healthcare providers. These companies have led the charge in hiring, and Denver's employment market is now above pre-pandemic levels. Ten tech startups achieved unicorn status in 2021, meaning that a privately held company has reached a valuation of at least $1 billion. A core of young, highly-educated workers populate the Mile High City, which plays a vital role in drawing the metro's high-paying employers.
While the office market has improved, the risks are clearly evident for both the short- and long-term. Many companies are settling on either a fully-remote or hybrid work model. The high concentration of tech companies, many of which are more amenable to remote work, have made Denver even more susceptible to this trend that is sweeping the nation. In terms of net absorption as a share of inventory since the start of the pandemic, Denver ranks among the worst-performing office markets in the U.S. and the vacancy rate has surpassed Great Recession levels. The amount of relinquished space has most likely already peaked, but continued work-from-home initiatives could slow the office market's growth going forward.