Welcome to Confluence: Where New Economy Meets Place

What are we doing in Denver? Writing about the innovative, creative minds taking this city to the next level.
Welcome to Denver, a conduit of new economy and cutting edge neighborhoods that sit on the banks of two rivers in the heart of a region capitalizing on the intellect and creativity of people from around the country. 

We love the two Plattes, the fact that half of everyone who lives here is from someone else (we love our natives too). We love that in a one block radius, we can drink some of the country’s best beer, devour empanadas, watch the latest and greatest in video technology, hang with Van Gogh, or start a 30 mile bike ride. We have more than 200 parks, more than 300 sunny days every year and house more than 20 breweries. Yes, we’re a major contributor to Colorado’s claim to fame as the country’s No. 1 beer producing state thank you very much.

Other than the sun, these things didn't just appear. We love this city because creatives, thought leaders and entrepreneurs targeted efforts to make Denver a place we want to be. 

Even though many of us who are no longer teenagers say things like bro, epic, totally and awesome, we’re not idiots. And, although we try, we don’t spend every working hour on a snowboard. Just ask the big boys. Forbes recently listed the Denver-Aurora-Bloomfield area as the No. 5 best place for business and careers; No. 7 most wired city; No. 10 safest city; and No. 13 best place to live for singles. Our question is, who wouldn’t want to live here?

You won’t see many suits in Denver, but that doesn’t mean the city isn’t flush with innovation. The latest Inc. 5000 list includes more than 45 Denver companies not including the Tech Center and surrounding areas. The Denver creative, tech and sustainability economies are booming as evidenced by the surge of creative businesses opening in RiNo, virtual office spaces connecting the city’s hoods and Denver’s first Startup Week, which launched Oct. 22. 

Companies like itriage, FullContact, ReadyTalk, NewsGator, Next Great Place and Zenman are taking the city by storm, hiring the transplants fleeing other cities for top destinations like Denver, which, according to new census data, is a top five destination for 25 to 29-year-olds. And then you’ve got places like Galvanize, a Denver incubator fostering many of the city’s up-and-coming business leaders. 

Although much of the city’s entrepreneurial activity is generated by coffee shop techies, we can’t discount the intellectual property coming out of Metro State University, the Community College of Denver, the University of Denver, the University of Colorado Denver and the city’s world class hospitals. Perhaps this is why the U.S. government decided to place one of only a few satellite patent offices in Denver. Genius grants? Nobel winners? Yes, please.  

But we’re not all business. Nowhere is the work hard play harder motto more evident than in Denver. With the second largest preforming arts center in the country, a nationally recognized art district, more than 40 live music venues, access to more than 30 miles of river trails and those itty bitty Rocky Mountains for hiking, rock climbing and snowboarding, we play hard in the shoes we work in. It's easier that way. Unless of course, you’re a Strut groupie, but Uggs work in snow, TOMS on trails. 

But who lives in Denver? That’s a hard one to answer. Take a look at the neighborhoods, which have expanded and undergone drastic revitializations since the 1980s. The Ballpark district, which was -- to be kind -- a bit of blight, was a major catalyst in the eastward expansion of Denver’s neighborhoods. The horrible viaduct that cut through LoDo imploded with the  light rail. Thankfully, strongholds like the Wazee and Paris on the Platte, made it through these blight smack downs. 

Denver neighborhoods have certainly struggled, but thanks to revitalization efforts small and large, the city’s creative class has helped bring back areas like Five Points, RiNo, the Highlands and Sunnyside.  Much of this success is due to community leaders and businesses that have worked closely with city government (or bucked the trend and done it themselves) to plan a city friendly to those hanging their own shingle or designing their own app. 

Today, Denver's real estate market is red hot. Ask new renters mired in bidding wars. The process may be a bit like making sausage, but that’s what happens when a city like Denver makes PricewaterhouseCoopers' top real estate markets to watch. 

For what it's worth, Travel + Leisure recently listed Denver as one of the top cities for hipsters based on an assessment of the city’s cultural features such as coffee bars, music venues, independent boutiques, microbreweries and tech-savvy locals. 

Whatever your thoughs on hipsters, we agree with Travel + Leisure. Denver is one badass place to live. So what are we doing here? The intent of Confluence City is to highlight the people, ideas and businesses transforming Denver, enhancing sense of place and elevating the city’s roll in the global economy. We know -- and you know -- Denver is desirable from an economic and place setting standpoint. We just want to share that not so well kept secret with everyone else.

We welcome your comments, suggestions and feedback. Please feel free to get in touch with us here.

Photographs by Kara Pearson Gwinn

Read more articles by Ivy Hughes.

Ivy Hughes is a Colorado native and coffee shop junkie. Contact her here.
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