Why You Should Think Twice Before Moving to Denver

Denver has plenty going for it: progressive and innovative thinking; a healthy economy with an unemployment rate below 4 percent; many arts, culture and professional sports offerings throughout the year; and, of course, its proximity to many of the world’s best-known ski areas.

Denver had the fastest-growing population among major U.S. cities between 2015 and 2016, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce proudly announced in May 2016.

Still, the Mile High City has problems, just like any other. So here’s why you should think twice before moving here.

Traffic sucks, even on weekends

Brutal Interstate 70 traffic to the mountains on weekends, whether for skiing in the winter, or hiking and other outdoor pursuits in the summer.

There are massive traffic tie-ups and slow going on winter Saturdays (heading west to the mountains) and Sundays (returning home). There’s no such thing as leaving too early on Saturday, especially.

On the plus side, a 13-mile shoulder express lane recently was completed on I-70 in an area particularly prone to slowdowns. Also, there are alternatives to driving, such as the Winter Park Ski Train.

In February, Colorado’s state-owned bus system will run a pilot program on two Saturdays to determine the viability of an express service for skiers and snowboarders. The “SnowStang” buses will leave Lakewood, which is adjacent to Denver, and make stops at six ski areas: Arapahoe-Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park. (The Winter Park Ski Train services only the Winter Park ski area.)

Downtown could use some cleaning up

The 16th Street Mall, which opened in 1982 in the heart of downtown Denver and was designed to be one of the city’s biggest attractions, in recent years the Mall has become a gathering area for panhandlers, people suffering through substance abuse issues, and some people who come just to start fights and commit assault. Public urination? Yeah, that’s an issue too.

Natives and tourists alike have complained about all this. So the city and the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP), which runs the mall, have taken aggressive action to combat this behavior. The Denver Police Department increased patrols along the mall and the DDP hired a private security force to do the same. The stepped up attention is starting to see results, with Denverite noting a a reduction in “anti-social” behaviors in 2016.

Housing is getting more unaffordable

Pushed by low inventory, home prices grew by double figures for three consecutive years. In December 2016, the average cost for a single-family detached home was $434,421, a 5.21 percent jump from 2015; attached condos averaged $308,212, up 11.39 percent year over year.
The latter market has slowed considerably because developers fear getting sued for alleged construction defects.

Also, Denver’s vacancy rate is so low that many low-income residents can’t find affordable housing.

That adds to the ranks of the homeless, whose true numbers are unknown. Some came to Denver because of legal marijuana. Others had no financial cushion when they lost jobs. And a certain percentage of them always will resist attempts to help them. Nonetheless, the mayor, City Council, governmental agencies, nonprofit and concerned citizens all have increased their efforts both to build affordable housing and to provide more services for the homeless.

You might lose your mind looking for a parking spot

Some of the new multi-tenant housing omits any parking spaces for residents. A huge influx of millennials into Denver, many of whom eschew owning a car, makes this more acceptable to them. But for everyone else, parking can be difficult to find.

A number of older buildings have been knocked down and replaced with parking lots (and the reverse also is true). Solutions also have included providing more mass transit options (bus, light rail that connects Denver to suburbs and neighboring municipalities) than ever before, and in April, the Regional Transportation District rolled out the “Train to the Plane” light-rail line to connect downtown Denver to Denver International Airport.

Yes, it’s had a few embarrassing breakdowns that make for a harsh spotlight on television, complete with coverage of angry passengers exiting the train car, walking along the tracks and angry because they expected to miss their planes. But those in charge have worked to eliminate the breakdowns, and there hasn’t been one in months.

You don’t like “the weed”

If you don’t care for Mary Jane, you will, at the very least, be mildly annoyed by the ubiquitous marijuana culture in Denver.

Since Coloradans voted to make recreational marijuana use legal, the industry has taken off in Denver, with scores of establishments where partakers can procure their prescriptions. A cottage industry of weed tours helps tourists get stoned.

On the bright side, legal weed generated more than a billion in tax revenue in 2016.


Bruce Goldberg