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Denver considers options to repurpose office buildings

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Like many metro areas, Denver has excess office space downtown.

During the pandemic, the push to work from home emptied office buildings, and many workers haven’t returned. Worries about crime and homelessness also pushed businesses to move from the city’s core.

Between the start of 2019 and October 2022, Denver’s 80202 ZIP code, which includes Union Station, Central Business District, and the 16th Street Mall, lost 1,028 businesses according to U.S. Postal Service tracking change-of-address requests data.

Now, city leaders plan to research ways to convert Denver’s outdated downtown office buildings into much-needed housing. The city plans to hire a consultant to study 10 or 15 downtown office buildings that could potentially transform into condos or apartments.

Nationally, office-to-apartment conversions jumped in 2020-2021 when developers converted office space into more than 11,000 apartments.

Doing the same in Denver could help repurpose office buildings that aren’t fully occupied.

“We need to look at what’s the need and where’s the demand,” says Sergio Nazzaro with 8z real estate. “Right now, we have available commercial space that feels like it’s wasted space and a need for more residential space downtown.”

At least three office buildings could be revamped to add new housing space.

Sarah Linback with Johnson Nathan Strohe Architecture and Interior Design submitted plans to remodel two buildings:

  • The Symes Building, an eight-story historic office building at 820 16th St, would be converted into 96 housing units.
  • An 11-story office tower at 225 16th Ave. would be converted into a multifamily residential building with 111 apartments.

Tim Borst, who has co-owned the 14-story Petroleum Building at the southwest corner of Broadway and the 16th Street Mall, is considering converting the office building into more than 125 apartments with ground-floor retail.

But converting office space will take time and money to retrofit the buildings to meet the needs of full-time residents, Nazzaro says.

“I wish it was a plug and play thing, but it doesn’t seem to be that.”



Like many metro areas, Denver has excess office space downtown.

During the pandemic, the push to work from home emptied office buildings, and many workers haven’t returned. Worries about crime and homelessness also pushed businesses to move from the city’s core.

Between the start of 2019 and October 2022, Denver’s 80202 ZIP code, which includes Union Station, Central Business District, and the 16th Street Mall, lost 1,028 businesses according to U.S. Postal Service tracking change-of-address requests data.

Now, city leaders plan to research ways to convert Denver’s outdated downtown office buildings into much-needed housing. The city plans to hire a consultant to study 10 or 15 downtown office buildings that could potentially transform into condos or apartments.

Nationally, office-to-apartment conversions jumped in 2020-2021 when developers converted office space into more than 11,000 apartments.

Doing the same in Denver could help repurpose office buildings that aren’t fully occupied.

“We need to look at what’s the need and where’s the demand,” says Sergio Nazzaro with 8z real estate. “Right now, we have available commercial space that feels like it’s wasted space and a need for more residential space downtown.”

At least three office buildings could be revamped to add new housing space.

Sarah Linback with Johnson Nathan Strohe Architecture and Interior Design submitted plans to remodel two buildings:

  • The Symes Building, an eight-story historic office building at 820 16th St, would be converted into 96 housing units.
  • An 11-story office tower at 225 16th Ave. would be converted into a multifamily residential building with 111 apartments.

Tim Borst, who has co-owned the 14-story Petroleum Building at the southwest corner of Broadway and the 16th Street Mall, is considering converting the office building into more than 125 apartments with ground-floor retail.

But converting office space will take time and money to retrofit the buildings to meet the needs of full-time residents, Nazzaro says.

“I wish it was a plug and play thing, but it doesn’t seem to be that.”

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