Review of Denver, Colorado

Lived in a lot of places; Non-native review
Star Rating - 3/18/2021
I lived in a lot of different cities in the 90s and 2000s including Denver. Now I'm back in Denver and while it is not perfect, honestly the city is pretty good, especially relative to comparable cities that you can move to NOW, as opposed to an idealized pre-90s Denver viewed with nostalgia lenses.

Climate wise you have much better winters than the midwest and northeast, better summers than most of the country (no humidity means it is 80s in the shade and extremely pleasant nights), very good proximity to outdoor activities (without having to hike/camp/run/climb in a damp mist which kind of sucks). You can get all these benefits in California but the cost of living is even higher there.

Regarding the two major complaints of homelessness and traffic, EVERY major city in the country has this problem, and Denver is not the worst by far. There are not the miles upon miles of homeless encampments, tent cities, nonstop garbage refuse. In fact, in most eastern cities, there are still large parts of the city that look like a bomb went off - we're talking every car missing at least one part like a door, hood, or wheel. People living in houses that are half collapsed, that have a sheet for a wall. This area exists in most eastern cities and there's not a single area of Denver that is like this.

And when you are talking about a commute that has increased to 30 or 45 minutes, that is honestly laughable compared to New York, LA, SF, chicago, houston, atlanta, seattle just to name a few where an hour commute is considered really pretty good and it is the norm for the commute to be 90+ minutes or 2 hrs one way.

Looking at many of the "native" reviews of people being here 40, 50 years, none of them mention that if you had a house here in the 70s and 80s, not only would you be disconnected from knowing how bad traffic, homelessness, poverty can actually be in a large city elsewhere, your net worth here would have also increased by at least a half million. Houses in Baker and 5-points for instance could be found for well under 100k back then, now you cannot find a 2 br SFH in these areas for less than 600k. If you had a 200k house in wash park back then, it is easily worth over a million now.

Compared to the 90s, Denver metro has greatly increased its variety of foods, music, art, and people. There is a legit K-town in aurora now. Did a drive there the other weekend and came back with food and authentic baked goods from Armenia, Ethiopia, Argentina, Lebanon, Iran, and Korea. You would not come to Denver for those things in the 70s, 80s and the benefits of having them here now is perhaps a non-factor or irrelevant and are not sufficiently reflected in the reviews of people who moved here for very different reasons in the 70s.

Yes Denver metro has changed. There is a more diversified economy with more higher paying jobs on average than before. It was mostly energy and military jobs here in the early 90s (one of the reasons I couldn't stay here longer then) but the jobs are more diversified now. Education and healthcare was not that great then when compared nationally, but with Denver's greater desirability I feel like there has been a significant increase in the population of highly educated professionals in both of these sectors compared to the 90s. Physician residency slots here for example, are now much more competitive. Major and minor music acts and broadway shows also tour through the city now on a regular basis whereas before even in the 90s I would have had to travel to a coastal city to see them. Now in 2020 pre-lockdown I was able to catch shows from bands from Queens, Baton Rouge, and Toronto within a 3-week span, with a large choice of different music venues within a 2 mile radius. I really don't think these bands would have toured through here in the 90s.

If these benefits of a more cosmopolitan, larger city do not matter or do not outweigh the negatives of growth (which you will find to be worse in nearly every other major city btw), you can cash out the greatly increased value of your house and find smaller front range communities (beyond broomfield and castle rock), without the increased amenities, but also without the traffic and homelessness. There are also cities like Boise and Cheyenne (sorry) where that pre-90s Denver rose-tinted nostalgia can still be relived (and where you can also remember the negatives). Though I hear Boise is getting pretty "bad" too.

I feel with the "natives" that have been here a long time and only choosing to focus on remembering what they have lost, frankly, you don't know how good you (still) have it here. There is a reason why the front range cities are in the top 5 of the US news places to live rankings. When you look at other cities in the US that you can move to now with comparable amenities, and consider their homeless rates and traffic, Denver still compares very favorably. Zero or 2 stars may be how you feel losing what you remember, but Denver is simply not a 0 or 2/5 place. 4.5/5.

Ian | Denver, CO
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