“Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face. Brush off the clouds and cheer up, put on a happy face.” For those of you that know your show tunes, those are the first two lines from “Put on a Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie. And I promise, it sounds better when you sing it. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not skipping down the mall, swinging from lamp posts and spouting hysterical enthusiasm, but is anyone else feeling cautiously optimistic? I know plenty of you are still out of work, and for those of you that are graduating or looking for temporary summer employment, things might seem just as scary as they did 18 months ago; but make no mistake, things are starting to shift.
December was an interesting month in my office. As is typical with the end of the year, the first two weeks were relatively quiet, but the last two weeks were like nothing I have ever experienced. Projects that had been on hold for some time were suddenly given the green, projects we had been chasing for months were finally awarded, and a few more surprises here and there had the whole office buzzing. Taking a walk around the office, it was refreshing to see new project teams forming, new concepts on the wall and sketch models on the table, and the occasional new face which has been so rare these last 3+ years. And it isn’t just my office. Colleagues of mine have stated that their firms are busier than they have been in several years, numerous people I know that were out of work have found either temporary or full time employment, and the number of active construction sites around town continues to grow.
Now, it’s certainly not all good news. Within two blocks of my apartment, a new low-rise rental building has almost topped out and just yesterday I heard about a 310 unit building that is set to start construction right across the street. The Ballpark and other neighborhoods continue to densify primarily due to large scale rental projects. While Denver’s population is projected to grow considerably over the next decade, the sad reality is that many of these apartments will be inhabited by people who have either lost their homes or don’t have a prayer of saving enough for the mortgage down payment that most banks are now requiring.
Continued economic, housing and other concerns aside, I think it is important to maintain some perspective. All of the issues requiring our attention, both economic and otherwise, aren’t going to right themselves overnight. In the mean time, if there is work coming in the door that keeps more of us working and engaged in the profession, seize these opportunities for great design and create communities where people can thrive. I have to trust that the rest will get sorted out eventually, one piece at a time. So, what about you? How do things look from your perspective? Are you seeing new projects or other opportunities come through the door? Have you found employment, or maybe different employment? Any new construction you want to tell me about?