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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Downsized Qualcomm sells portion of Gunbarrel real estate

As Seen In BizWest – April 27, 2016

BOULDER – Denver-based Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners has bought back a Gunbarrel building it sold to Qualcomm just two years ago, as well as two additional parcels of land that the semiconductor company had owned since the late 1990s.

Etkin Johnson has already sold one of the newly acquired vacant parcels to Boulder development and property management firm W.W. Reynolds Cos.

Etkin Johnson paid Qualcomm $5.4 million for four parcels: a 51,082-square-foot building at 6150 Lookout Road and its adjacent parking lot at 5150 Lookout, a vacant 3.7-acre parcel at 6100 Spine Road and a vacant parcel at 6201 Spine Road.

Qualcomm still owns and occupies a pair of large office buildings across Spine Road to the south of the 6201 property.

San Diego-based Qualcomm had bought the 6150 Lookout building and its parking lot from Etkin Johnson in 2014 for $5.04 million. Qualcomm was a tenant in a portion of the building at the time and was eyeing adjacent suites for expansion, Etkin Johnson director of finance Derek Conn said Tuesday.

But a major companywide restructuring for Qualcomm last year led to 158 layoffs in Boulder.

“Due to some corporate restructuring on their end, they moved the unit that was working in that building to their property across the street, and we had the opportunity to buy it back,” Conn said.

Conn said the 35-year-old single-story building is vacant and that Etkin Johnson intends to essentially gut it and create a more modern, open office environment. He said lease rates for similar office/industrial flex properties are running between $12 and $15 per square foot on a triple-net basis.

“We believe that Gunbarrel is a natural destination for a lot of tenants that need additional space, have been driven out of (central) Boulder or are looking for an alternative,” Conn said.

Etkin Johnson’s only other property in Gunbarrel is the Celestial Seasonings distribution building at the northeast corner of 63rd Street and Spine Road.

As for the two vacant parcels purchased from Qualcomm, they are both zoned general industrial. Conn said Etkin Johnson has no immediate development plans for the 6201 Spine property it is keeping.

“We think it can create a strategic opportunity going forward for tenant amenities if there are additional parking requirements or the like (for the 6150 Lookout building),” Conn said.

W.W. Reynolds officials couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. But Conn said he believed the company is planning to hold the land at 6100 Spine for future opportunities. W.W. Reynolds already owns the building next door at 6060 Spine Road that is occupied by GE.

 

 

Etkin Johnson to build facility for software company in Louisville

As Seen In The Denver Business Journal – April 26, 2016

Etkin Johnson will build a new facility for software company Accurence at the Colorado Technology Center.

Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners will build a 17,940-square-foot flex industrial building for Accurence, a software company that specializes in homeowner insurance claims inspection.

The facility will be built on 2.4 acres at 305 S. Arthur Ave. in the Colorado Technology Center in Louisville.

“We are very pleased to be developing a build-to-suit facility for this growing company,” said Ryan Good, executive vice president and partner at Etkin Johnson. “We’re excited for the opportunity to deliver Accurence a modern building that meets their specific needs and seamlessly reflects their culture and brand.”

Accurence is currently based in Westminster and develops desktop roofing software applications for insurance carriers and roofing contractors across the country. The new facility will house 59 employees and includes room for future growth.

“This project is a significant step for Accurence and comes at a time when the company is seeing its fastest growth,” said Jake Labrie, president of Accurence. “The new facility will have a great impact on the team and the company. We think this will help us attract great talent – a priority for any software company in today’s market.”

The new facility will contain office space and about 1,500 square feet of warehouse space. Accurence will relocate its operations from Westminster following the completion of the new building in February 2017.

Colorado Technology Center is a master-planned business park encompassing 580 acres. Etkin Johnson owns and manages a 900,000-square-foot portfolio there, with another 120,581 under construction at 2000 Taylor Ave.

Ware Malcomb is serving as project architect.

 

The Cities on the Sunny Side of the American Economy

As Seen In The New York Times – March 31, 2016

DENVER – When the aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation moved into the Colorado Technology Center about eight years ago, employees on their lunch break could stroll by the alpaca farm next door.

Now the animals are gone, and the land is cleared and ready for the new development surging along the Denver-to-Boulder corridor.

At campaign rallies throughout the South and Midwest, economic frustration and sluggish wage growth are dominant themes. States like Alaska and Oklahoma, faced with low oil prices, are grappling with bankruptcies and layoffs. And overall growth in the United States economy remains disappointing.

But this thriving industrial park is just one sign of the many metropolises and smaller cities across the nation that have not only regained their footing since the recession, but are on the upswing. Here in the Mountain West – but also in places as varied as Seattle and Portland, Ore., in the Northwest, and Atlanta and Orlando, Fla., in the Southeast – employers are hiring at a steady clip, housing prices are up and consumers are spending more freely.

“It’s pretty clear that some metropolitan areas are doing really well,” said Andrew McAfee, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The ingredients to that formula seem to be some combination of great research universities and knowledge-intensive industries, whether it’s high tech on the West Coast, biotechnology here in the East or clusters of technology and robotics in places like Pittsburgh.”

The Denver metropolitan area has become a showcase of the sunnier side of the American economy. While the region has some inherent advantages, like a spectacular landscape that beguiles outdoor enthusiasts, Colorado had long been held back by a dependence on natural resources as its economic base.

Its transformation into one of the most dynamic economies in the country was led by local business leaders and government officials, who took advantage of existing assets while also raising taxes at times to invest in critical transportation links, development-friendly policies and a network of colleges and universities.

“It’s the outcome of really about 30 years of diversifying our economy” away from fossil-fuel industries and military contractors, said Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. “In the 1980s, we were Coors, carbon and the Cold War.”

With a history of boom-and-bust commodity cycles, Colorado hit bottom in the mid-’80s, when energy prices collapsed. Nearly a third of the office space in downtown Denver, the state’s oil-and-gas headquarters, sat empty. Many of the city’s cultural institutions teetered, and a cloud of brown smog smeared the horizon.

Now the brilliant blue skyline is punctuated with red cranes, and Denver’s soundtrack includes the steady thrum of power drills operated by hard-hatted construction workers who are putting up office buildings and housing at a feverish pace.

Technology start-ups, including Ibotta, Craftsy, Home Advisor and Gnip (bought by Twitter in 2014), found a footing in Colorado. Financial services firms like Charles Schwab, TIAA and Fidelity Investments expanded their operations.

A raft of smaller aerospace and commercial satellite companies like Sierra Nevada, which just won a NASA contract to build the mini-space shuttle Dream Chaser, have elbowed in beside giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Colorado led the country last year in new health care jobs.

Several measures helped things along. A new rail line that will connect the airport to the downtown and serve outlying industrial parks and a push to support cultural institutions “required people to vote to raise their taxes,” Mr. Clark of Metro Denver said. “This wasn’t something done by the elites.”

What Denver and its surrounding cities share with other boomtowns is an appealing environment for a skilled work force, which has increasingly meant the difference between prosperity and stagnation.

Such places have become business incubators and magnets for educated millennials. The lifestyles that 20- and 30-somethings often seek depend on a medley of urban living, public transit and lots of entertainment options (which in Colorado includes marijuana, legalized for recreational use since 2014).

“Opportunity is being driven by the digital economy,” said Zo Baird, president of the Markle foundation, which recently began a pilot program called Skillful in Colorado to match employers and workers based on skills, rather than simply degrees. “That is where the job growth and economic growth is coming from.”

According to the latest figures available, the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood region had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, the lowest of any metropolitan area with a population above one million. (The national average was 4.9 percent in February.)

A recent report by the Leeds School of Business, at the main Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, predicted that the state would gain more than 65,000 jobs in 2016, or about 2.5 percent above last year’s level.

“People used to come to Colorado just for the state. They liked the lifestyle and hoped they could scrape a living together,” said Fiona Arnold, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “Now employers are chasing them.”

Take Charles Schwab, which has its headquarters in San Francisco and is expanding in a handful of cities, including Phoenix, Orlando, Indianapolis and Austin, Tex. At its new campus in Lone Tree, outside Denver, hiring is enough of a main activity that a dedicated “talent acquisition suite” was installed off a lobby, a stylish space with gray suede couches, a kitchen and cozy private rooms where prospective employees can be comfortably courted.

This year, Schwab plans to add 1,360 people to its staff in Colorado.

Other businesses have taken advantage of opportunities for collaboration with universities and government laboratories.

Sierra Nevada’s plant, for example, features a thermal vacuum chamber that simulates the cold void of space and a pint-size mission control to track its commercial satellite launches.

But when it needed to recreate the intense vibration of a space launch, it trucked the Dream Chaser prototype to the earthquake simulator at the University of Colorado campus 20 minutes away.

Erik Mitisek, the state’s chief innovation officer, said the region’s economic diversity was building on itself. Many people don’t want to relocate for a single job opportunity, he said. They want to know they have other options.

“That was probably a hurdle before,” said Mr. Mitisek, a co-founder of Denver Startup Week, a sort of entrepreneurial Lollapalooza, in 2012. “But now there is a lot of depth in the market.”

Bryan Leach, a former lawyer who founded Ibotta (pronounced “I bought a”), a mobile shopping app, has seen that evolution firsthand. After starting his career in the District of Columbia, he tested several western states in the early 2000s. Arizona had too many rattlesnakes, he said half jokingly. Wyoming was too small. California was too expensive.

Then he and his wife visited Denver. They could manage to buy a new five-bedroom house and have the occasional dinner out without borrowing from their in-laws, he said. But at first he couldn’t find the right job.

No more. In Mr. Leach’s view, Denver has reached a “critical mass” of new business ventures. People who love Colorado’s lifestyle no longer “feel like they have to sacrifice the quality of career opportunities,” he said.

Mr. Leach’s own company has undergone extraordinary growth. In 2012 he ditched his lawyerly dark suits and now wears a tech entrepreneur’s uniform of orange sneakers and a purple shirt. He started Ibotta in the windowless basement of a fire station, paying $8 a square foot to house himself and one other employee.

In March, the company moved more than 200 full- and part-time employees into a new 40,000-square-foot office in Denver’s tallest tower.

The relative lack of racial and cultural diversity (the state is 87 percent white) can deter some people from relocating, Mr. Leach conceded, but he thinks that is changing with an increasingly cosmopolitan mix of people, arts, restaurants and shops. His own weekend ritual includes dim sum and rock climbing.

The dynamism reminds him of his youth in Atlanta in the 1980s and ’90s, when the Southern hub was growing at a phenomenal pace.

“Now I get to be part of the generation that is building the new economy,” he said.