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What does 2018 have in store for Colorado?

NEWER RESTAURANTS, LOWER RENT, HIGHER MINIMUM WAGES

2017 was a eventful year for Colorado. But the momentum seems to only be gaining, rocketing into 2018 with a massive amount of upcoming projects and shake-ups that may leave the mountainous terrain of the Rockies looking significantly different. For better or worse, these changes will affect every corner of Colorado, not just CU Denver students.

According to the U.S Census, Colorado had the eigth fastest growing population of any state in 2017. Adding more than 77,000 residents this past year, the Census estimates that about 30,000 of these residents came from natural increases, or the difference between births and deaths. The remainder is estimated to have come from net migration, or the difference between people moving into the state and those leaving it. However, the influx of residents was lower than 2016, when the state’s population increased by 90,000; the jump was even bigger in 2015, at about 100,000.

So what are the larger implications for the housing market in the metro area? The rate of people moving to Colorado has slowly tapered off, or more likely, the rate of people leaving the state has been creeping up higher since 2015.

Little Man’s massive expansion is one of many sweet things to look forward to this year. | Photo Credit: Bobby Jones

On a similar note, housing growth is expected to slow down after several years of prices steadily climbing up in metro Denver. Zillow, the Seattle-based real estate site, measured the rate of change in Denver home values at 6.5 percent, which falls below the US annual increase of seven percent, for the first time in a decade. “Though still humming along, the Mile High City’s housing market came back down to earth in 2017,” says Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas. Just two years ago, metro Denver’s annual rate of appreciation on the Zillow home price index was 15.5 percent, three times faster than the US rate. Similarly, the website ApartmentList estimates the median apartment rent in Denver is up only 1.6 percent this year. Rent gains are running highest in Broomfield, at 5.8 percent, and are nearly flat in Englewood, at 0.8 percent.

For Denver residents that have voiced complaints due to construction, more of the same construction will carry over into the new year. 2018 has numerous retail development projects queued up for the metro area.

According to Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE), it is expected that the wave of gyms and fitness centers taking over big box spaces will slow down in the coming year. However, entertainment concepts, specialty grocers, and large-format discount apparel stores are expected to step in, including a space large enough for the artist collective MeowWolf to install their permanent exhibit in Denver.

Further legislation is also on the docket, as several policies were up for discussion for 2018 when the General Assembly reconvened on Jan. 10, covering a wide range of public health concerns.

Following a 2016 voter-approved ballot measure, minimum wage will rise across the state. The minimum wage for tipped employees will go up to $7.18 per hour. Currently, minimum wage for hourly, non-tipped workers sits at $9.30. Starting in 2018, minimum wage will go up to $10.20 an hour. That number will continue to rise until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020. Colorado is one of 18 states that is raising its minimum wage in 2018.

In an effort to empower patients, a new law will force health care providers to disclose charges for services they perform. The Transparency in Health Care Prices Act requires providers to put together a list of the prices for at least 15 of the most common services it provides to patients. Fair warning, the prices provided are only estimates and do not represent the final cost, but this bill will be in practice at the campus health center as well.

The Department of Revenue has now been given the choice to suspend a person’s driver’s license if they leave the scene of an accident that seriously injures or kills someone. There must be a preponderance of evidence, however, that the person was the driver of the car involved in the accident and that they left the scene. Currently, a driver’s license can only be revoked after the driver has been convicted of the crime. If the person’s license has been suspended, they will have an opportunity to make a written request for a review and hearing for a probationary license.

Though the federal government has rescinded Obama-era policies protecting states that have legalized marijuana from federal prosecution, policies that were drafted in 2017 will still be implemented in the new year in Colorado. As of Jan. 1, the state regulates the number of marijuana plants allowed to grow in each house by residence and not by person. The previous rule allowed up to six plants each house per adult. The 2018 policy states that all residences will be limited to a maximum of 12 plants unless certain requirements are met. This law is also subject to county and city restrictions, meaning fewer plants may be permitted. The plants must be grown in areas that are enclosed and locked away so that minors can’t get to them.

Colorado is also cracking down on retail stores that sell marijuana in an effort to prevent the practice of looping. Looping is where someone goes into a marijuana dispensary repeatedly during the same day to buy marijuana. The new rules limit sales to a single transaction per person per day. It also punishes establishments that sell marijuana to people that employees know, or should reasonably know, have already purchased their limit. The language of the law also changed to prohibit not only the sale but the transfer of retail marijuana to people who have already purchased the legal limit.

In art-related news, Denver made it onto the New York Times’ list of “52 Places to Go in 2018,” locking in at number 30. One primary reason is Denver’s burgeoning art scene. The reopening of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art will take place in March, and the Santa Fe-based art collective MeowWolf will establish their newest exhibition in a four-story gallery—right next to campus.

Another exciting artistic development is the rumored “mega-festival” taking place in early September. It is anticipated to be larger in size than any other music festival in the United States. And if that was not exciting enough, countless new restaurants will be cropping up all over the metro area in 2018. Four new Little Man Ice Cream shops will be sprinkled strategically throughout the city, and the longstanding rumors that In-N-Out Burger plans to open in Colorado have finally been confirmed.

These changes will attract plenty of tourists to the state because of the economic impact of clustering creative businesses. According to the director of public affairs for the National Endowment for the Arts, Jamie Bennett, “A theater has 1,000 people show up at eight o’clock. A museum might have 1,000 visitors spread out over the course of an eight-hour day. A rehearsal studio might have 30 people coming and going every hour over 12 hours. You put these three different organizations in proximity to one another and, all of a sudden, you have a full day of positive foot traffic on a street—feet that belong to people who need to eat meals, buy newspapers, go shopping, and take public transportation. You have every mayor’s dream,”  Bennett said.

While it sounds like Colorado may look quite different by the end of 2018, these changes certainly could benefit the students of CU Denver in many ways. With higher minimum wages and the possible decline of housing prices, students will have more time to themselves and hopefully will have some of their financial stress relieved. Add in more transparency in health care, more accountability in the marijuana retail industry as well as people who commit hit-and-runs, and the exciting wave of arts hitting the city, 2018 is already shaping up to be a great year for CU students.

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