Insights from Experts: Mark Johnson at BisNow’s Denver State of the Market


Mark Johnson, Senior Director, Real Estate Development
Years with Opus: 1 year   
Event Name: Denver State of the Market
Host/Sponsor Organization: BisNow Denver (with 300+ attendees)
Chad McWhinney, CEO & Founder, McWhinney
Ryan Good, Partner, Executive Vice President, Etkin Johnson
Christopher King, President, DPC Development
Moderator: Doug Wulf, Executive Managing Director, Cushman Wakefield

Key Points:

  • 40,000 new jobs were created in Denver last year. Unemployment is less than 3%, and there are 80 people per day moving to Denver. Jobs and quality of life (sunshine, Rocky Mountains, cultural attractions, innovation economy, reasonable cost of living compared to the coasts) are attracting highly educated people who want to live here. Colorado is second only to Massachusetts in terms of per capita secondary and post-secondary educated people.
  • The construction defects law, although protecting demand for the apartment rental market, needs to be fixed as affordable condos are unavailable to the housing consumer. Only high end condos are being built as the premium developers have to pay for construction defect insurance can be buried in the unit asking price. 
  • Historically the inventory for home ownership in the Denver market has averaged 20,000 housing units per month. The current inventory is approximately 5,000 units per month. Thus, the overheated bidding wars that occur for a home that comes on the market. 
  • The Jones District™ is a 42 acre property we control near I-25, adjacent to the Dry Creek light rail station and within walking distance to Park Meadows Mall. The property is entitled for 1.86 million square feet of mixed-use office, multifamily, hotel and retail. The property is on a knoll with commanding views of the Rockies, downtown and the Denver Tech Center. We recently initiated the first phase for a 306-unit, luxury multifamily project that will provide 1.56 parking spaces per unit and nine-foot ceilings with seven-foot windows. It will also feature indoor and outdoor amenities, including a sixth floor deck with views to the west and Mount Evans. We’re ready to strike if an office build-to-suit surfaces, in particular a large user looking to establish a campus as we can accommodate up to 1.2 million square feet of office.      
  • There are plenty of capital sources interested in Denver. We have two options available to source capital – internal or joint venture (JV) partner. We have established relationships with six partners and growing. JV documents take time and effort to get completed, but it is worth the effort to mitigate risk.