Swinerton In the News

Denver: September 07, 2018

Downtown Denver keeps up tech momentum as Xero celebrates opening Americas’ HQ on Platte Street

Fast-growing accounting software firm headlines 96,000-square-foot Circa Building

Another day, another office building ribbon cutting in downtown Denver, and another tech company setting down roots in the Mile High City.

Developers and dignitaries gathered in the lobby of the Circa Building at 1615 Platte St. on Thursday to celebrate the opening of the 96,000-square-foot commercial space.

The LEED Platinum-certified building takes up a pivotal parcel on Platte Street, rising up around the eastern landing spot for the Highland Bridge. Owned by real estate investment firm Unico Properties and developed by Unico subsidiary Costigan Integrated, the four-story structure has heated bike parking and showers, a 50-person auditorium and ground-floor common space that includes a private outdoor plaza. It derives just shy of 30 percent of its power from a rooftop solar array provided by another subsidiary, Unico Solar Investors.

Those features helped Circa attract its marquee and so far only operational tenant: the Americas headquarters for cloud accounting software company Xero. It was more than a nice building that lured Xero away from its previous Colorado digs in Greenwood Village.

“We chose Denver to be the Americas HQ for Xero really to help support our growth in the Americas and because we wanted to be part of our thriving tech scene that is building here,” Andy Burner, the company’s vice president of people and business operations, said at Thursday’s event.

So far Xero has roughly 150 people working in its 30,000-square-foot, top-floor space. The company embraces an “activity-based working” approach, which forgoes dedicated desks in favor of providing a variety of work spaces that people can utilize as needed. Burner said the space can hold up to 300 people. Twelve employees are slated to start at the Denver office on Monday.

While it is maintains a presence in San Francisco, Xero chose to move its HQ from that tech-heavy city to the Denver area in part because of the local talent being produced here and the talent that continues to flow in from elsewhere, Burner said. When it comes to migrating north from its former Denver Tech Center digs, Burner made it clear the New Zealand-based business sees downtown Denver as the hub for the region’s multi-spoke tech ecosystem.

“There is a central gravity around the center of Denver, which seems to be building,” Burner said. “It was really about being part of the community and having a visible presence.”

Rather than compete with other firms for talent, Burner said Xero aims to embrace and become a larger part of the local small-business community. The company will host the Denver Startup Week closing party later this month. It also recently announced a partnership with Gusto, another company with both Denver and San Francisco offices. Gusto is now the preferred payroll provider for Xero’s accounting and small business services platform.  

In a recent study of tech companies and Front Range real estate, researchers with CBRE Colorado found at least 22 companies either relocated their headquarters or opened field offices in the area between the summer of 2017 and summer of 2018. While Boulder and the northern Front Range have long been tech hotbeds, CBRE senior vice president Alex Hammerstein said the recent focus has shifted heavily to downtown Denver.

“It’s hard to scale in a place like Boulder or the northwest market where your real estate is constrained,” Hammerstein said. “The labor base all lives within a very close proximity to downtown.” 

Dane Grashuis is among the Xero staffers whose commute got significantly shorter now that the company has left Arapaho County. The downtown Denver denizen knows having a sleek, modern office is going to make the company more attractive to job seekers.

“When I was looking for a job it was absolutely more of a seller to go into a cool space where people actually wanted to be,” he said.

Xero could soon have neighbors. Austin Kane, regional director for Unico in Colorado, said he hopes to announce a tenant in the coming weeks that will take up the entire second and third floors in the building.

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