Boulder Valley allure draws national attention

BOULDER — Even during the darkest days of a recession, the Boulder Valley remained a top draw for developers from around the nation.

Gordon “Gordy” Stofer, a director at Houston-based Hines, ticked off the reasons Thursday at the Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference & Forecast.

“Colorado is the fourth-fastest growing state – first for ages 25 to 34,” Stofer said. “It’s the third most educated. It’s No. 2 in infrastructure index – things like FasTracks, museums, convention centers – and it’s the least obese, which means more productivity.”

“Boulder has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire country and a very attractive business climate,” added Steve Eaton, vice president of Goff Capital Partners LP, “which has roots in Fort Worth, Texas. It has one of the highest-educated workforces, and the highest number of Ph.Ds per capita.”

I heard one large tech employer in Silicon Valley say he put up a job in Boulder and got 120 resumes.

Allen Ginsborg, managing director at NewMark Merrill Mountain States, which is redeveloping the struggling Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont, isn’t surprised that the area has weathered the tough years. “In a downturn,” he said, “there’s always a flight to quality.”

The Denver metropolitan areaís northwest quadrant – the part closest to Boulder – has “a very active and healthy lifestyle,” Stofer said, and his company’s Eos at Interlocken development in Broomfield reflects that attitude with such features as charging stations for electric cars, woodwork constructed from beetle-killed mountain conifers, solar panels and a system that gets 35 percent of its power from wind energy. The four-story, 186,000-square-foot building, reportedly the first large-scale speculative office development building in metropolitan Denver in three years, opened in August.

Hines’ new building in lower downtown Denver plays to Colorado strengths as well. “Young urban professionals want to be around light rail, amenities, infrastructure,” Stofer said.

When NewMark Merrill bought Twin Peaks Mall, Ginsborg said, its aim was to keep a sense of community while updating the dated shopping center’s focus.

“Thirty years ago, retail was about commodities,” Ginsborg said. “Now the Internet does that better. Now retail is about selling proprietary products and being service-oriented, relationship-oriented.”

That relationship to the community has led NewMark Merrill to hold three community meetings which drew a total of more than 500 people. Developers asked them what they want at a new Twin Peaks. “That outreach is voluntary,” he said. “None of this is mandated by a code.”

“I want people to see this coming,” Ginsborg said. “I want to build excitement as we announce tenants. I want to integrate the project into people’s thinking.”

Longmont is affluent and well-educated like Boulder – but higher on the “family” scale.

The proximity to Boulder led Goff to focus on aesthetics when planning to redevelop the Campus at Longmont office park it acquired this year. “We knew we were competing with central Boulder, so we want to create a sense of place,” Eaton said.

“Campus at Longmont already has drawn an impressive list of tenants, including Micron, Dot Hill and Texas Instruments. Its location in Boulder County helps,” Eaton said, “and all of our buildings are near Twin Peaks Mall – so I’m very excited about what NewMark Merrill is doing.”

Then, turning to Ginsborg, Eaton added, “Thank you!”

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