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Small businesses thrive in Cherry Creek North

Six major construction projects in Cherry Creek North will be completed in 2018, adding 201 hotel rooms, 236 residences, 110,000 square feet of office space and over 50,000 sf of new or renovated retail space. Courtesy Ryan Dravitz
Brian Phetteplace

Brian Phetteplace
Director of economic development, Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District, Denver

The city of Denver continues to see incredible levels of investment. This year is expected to be another record year with several major development projects under construction or planned that will add to the city’s growth and transformation.

In Cherry Creek North, this transformation is even more profound.

Cherry Creek North, the 16-block area extending from University Boulevard to Steele Street and First to Third Avenues, has long been known as the home for independent and luxury retailers in Colorado. The area boasts over 2.46 million square feet of office and retail space, more than 5,000 parking spaces and businesses employing over 7,300 people. Cherry Creek North’s total commercial assessed valuation has doubled over the past five years. With a Walk Score of 95, Cherry Creek North is the most walkable area in the city of Denver. The larger Cherry Creek area employs 18,000 and is home to more than 7,000 residents.

The Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District has been the management entity for the 16-block area since its establishment in 1989. The BID’s mission is to actively plan, manage and promote Cherry Creek North as a premier destination for shopping, dining, living, working and visiting.

“Cherry Creek is widely known as the city’s premier shopping destination,” said Julie Underdahl, president and CEO of the Cherry Creek North BID. “The area is evolving as a mixed-use destination with more hotels, restaurants, living, office and retail spaces coming online. We are working closely with public and private partners to ensure that the area continues to be the number one destination for premier shopping, as well as the top destination in Denver to live, work and stay.”

The BID works to support its local, national and international retailers. Beginning in 2008, the BID financed and managed the design and construction of an $18.5 million streetscape renovation project called “The New North.” The improvements were designed to retain and attract visitors, to protect and preserve the area’s character, and keep it a competitive retail environment. The streetscape frames and supports an active and attractive public realm that continues to draw new investment and new businesses and enhances the visitor experience in the area.

Today, Cherry Creek North is the largest home of small businesses in the Rocky Mountain region. Of its 250 retailers, 70 percent are independently owned and operated. Long-standing retailers continue to celebrate milestone anniversaries that range 20, 25 and 30-plus years of doing business in the area. These entrepreneurs are the foundation of the business community and give the area its unique character.

“There is no question that Cherry Creek North is what it is because it is an authentic space that has organically grown over time,” said Rosella Louis, founder of The Brass Bed: fine linens & furnishings. “It is the kind of place where you can buy a simple lunch or a gourmet dinner, a pair of flip flops or a diamond bracelet … a place where independent retailers and nationals coexist. And now a place where many people live and work, it’s why we’ve thrived here for almost two decades!”

In summer 2017, the district conducted a Visitor Intercept Survey that provided new insight into consumer perceptions and spending patterns in the district. According to the results, visitors to Cherry Creek North are highly educated: 48 percent have a college degree and 26 percent have an advanced degree. Visitors also have high annual household incomes with 44 percent earning over $100,000. Respondent’s top reasons for visiting the district were shopping or dining and the average number of visits per month was between one and five. Overall, Cherry Creek North was ranked highly by visitors for its landscaping, feeling of safety and overall cleanliness.

There are three primary retail uses that generate almost 80 percent of sales tax generation for the area; clothing and accessories, home furnishings and restaurants/hospitality. In the last year, these categories have increased by 14.2 percent, 17 percent and 20.5 percent, respectively.

As of the third quarter, total retail sales tax collections for the district were up 7.5 percent versus retail sales for the same period in 2016. This is the fourth consecutive year of annual increases in collections with the area consistently outperforming the city and county of Denver.

In 2018, six major construction projects are projected to finish. These developments will add 201 hotel rooms, 236 residences, 110,000 sf of office space and over 50,000 sf of new or renovated retail space.

National retailers are taking notice. In the past 18-plus months, several stores and restaurants have opened or announced plans for entry to the Colorado market within the BID boundaries.

Recent announcements and first-to-market concepts opening include Frye Boots, Hedgerow, Vineyard Vines, Quality Italian, CB2, Soul Cycle, 801 Fish and a Bonobos Guide Shop. Other exciting retail developments include the new two-level flagship for Design Within Reach and the 25,000 sf of retail for ANB Plaza along Second Avenue. Several more announcements of new stores and restaurant concepts are expected.

Featured in CREJ’s February 2018 issue of Retail Properties Quarterly.  

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.