Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the three years that I’ve now resided in Denver. “Far and away the best place that I’ve ever lived,” I recently told some peeps back in the Midwest. “Our 300 plus days of sunshine makes for some of the best weather in the nation,” I shared with another.But my biggest discovery is Denver’s reputation as one of the most socially engaged cities in the U.S. Despite its distinction as the 23rd most populous major metropolitan area in the nation, the “Mile High City,” as it’s affectionately known, has a surprisingly small, close-knit community feel to it.

The mountain of social and business events that take place on a daily basis evidences the centrality of face-to-face engagement. While many of these get-togethers are of a planned and formal nature, connections often occur in an unpredictable, synchronistic fashion, whether at a local pub in Denver’s densely urbanized Capitol Hill or in a tony restaurant in the entrepreneurial-infused Denver Tech Center area.

In his book Triumph of the City, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser argues that the fostering of what he calls “random collisions” among humans are one of the most prized assets of urban life. According to Glaeser, this sort of dynamic serves a catalyst for unexpected business and personal introductions, relationships and even collaborations.

The citizenry of Denver have made a sport out of these sorts of encounters, as it’s not uncommon to cross paths with people you know on local streets both day and night. Much of this is due to the active lifestyle present in the Mile High City, which encourages mobility versus being cloistered away from civilization. It’s more common for business to be conducted in open environments of conversation and exchange, versus in some sterile office environment. Downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall is infamous for its mid-afternoon gatherings of business-minded professionals who allow for the creative flow of ideas over a refreshing beer.


Downtown Denver

The proliferation of these informal exchanges is the gist of what author Ray Oldenburg explored in his book The Great Good Place. He predicted over 20 years ago that “third places” like coffee houses, hair salons, bookstores and local pubs would serve as central nodes of civic connection. In these social spaces where people congregate for a brief respite from work and home, conversations occur in organic fashion among unsuspecting newbies as well as regulars, leading to unexpected and oftentimes rewarding connections.

Denver-based Little Pub Company manages a varied cornucopia of pubs throughout Denverthat serve as sparkplugs for spirited community connection. On their website they promote the importance of relationships among “the people in your neighborhood,” – singles, couples, families, and parents on a date night. My two favorites among their pubs, Wyman’s, an old school Chicago-themed bar in the Capitol Hill district, and The Pioneer, a staple in the University of Denver community, exemplify the Little Pub Company’s spirit of first-nameconnectedness among regulars in environments that abound with unpretentiousness, playfulness, music and fervent laughter. These are the types of spots that would make Norm from the hit television show Cheers proud.

An alum of Ohio State University, I often find myself at Crocs Mexican Grill at 16th and Market during football season watching my beloved Buckeyes make a run at the Big 10 championship each year (See Photo Below). Every Saturday, hundreds of faithful fans gather at a bar called Crocs, located at 16th and Market in downtown Denver. These types of branded sporting venues profusely populate the city and serve as an outlet for community vibrancy and economic development.


The Ohio State Rocky Mountain Alumni Association at Crocs

Another driver of community engagement is the social media buzz that hums throughout Denver, one of the most active cities for Facebook and Twitter participation. Personal and business connections percolate via these and other social media channels 24/7.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending an in-person gathering of local Twitter enthusiasts on the rooftop of the brand new DaVita World Headquarters Building, located on the fringe of Denver’s LODO District. Over 100 attendees enjoyed an array of craft beer and winewhile taking in some of the best mountain and city views from DaVita’s top floor terrace. While the ultimate purpose of the event was to create a networking forum in support of kidney disease, the evening’s social vibe highlighted the role of civic engagement in building cause-based connections.

This convergence of technological, social, and civic forces is fast becoming a catalyst for boosting economic development in Denver, culminating in the emergence of specific nichescatering to the city’s rapidly mushrooming demographic of creative workers. This movement reflects the growing demand for a sense of community and belonging stemming from the “rise of the creative class,” a phrase coined by Richard Florida, professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.

Craig Baute is the founder of Creative Density, a collaborative, community-driven workspace for freelancers, remote workers, and start-ups in Denver. He states that a growing number of creatives are longing for community spaces that support their personal and professional endeavors.


Creative Density

“Undoubtedly, these environments will continue to take on increasing importance for independent, remote workers who are seeking creative outlets for business connection, ” says Baute. “As creative professionals continue to migrate to Denver, I believe that proximity to a co-working space will become a major factor in what neighborhoods people choose to live in.”

At Creative Density, members take the lead in cultivating an environment promoting idea sharing and support, whether through informal, random conversations with fellow members, activities outside of work, or mastermind forums and reading groups. These working relationships extend throughout the U.S. through Creative Density’s partnerships with other co-working locales in cities like Austin, San Francisco, New York City and Seattle. “I’ve always operated off of the principle that if people really get to know each other, they can begin to trust each other, which leads to an atmosphere of collaboration,” says Baute. “That in a nutshell is ultimately what shared connection is all about.”

Michael Scott can be reached at either 303-578-0791 or Edits by Emily Jessen.