The Apartment Development Pipeline: Past, Present and Future

Posted By: Cary Bruteig Articles, Association, Industry,


Recently the Metro Denver apartment market surpassed 400,000 apartment homes! This landmark gives us the opportunity to take a look back at the history of Denver’s housing development, a look forward to what’s next, a close look at who’s building in Denver, and an evaluation of the market as a whole.

Denver was founded 165 years ago by a group of gold miners in 1858. From 1870 to 1890, after gold had dried up in Cherry Creek and the South Plate rivers, the city diversified itself with other trades and manufacturing. By the latter part of the century the population hit six figures; and rental housing was born. From mainly duplexes and rowhouses, which were built for the city’s working class, Denver now had a rental housing industry.



The first dedicated apartment buildings were built in the 1890s, and by 1905 there were 42 different apartment buildings. 

In 1906 the first National Western Stock Show was hosted in Denver, and nearby ranching continued to drive the economy. By the 1940’s the number of apartment buildings had increased to over 900 communities and an estimated 35,000 units in the Denver area; but it would take until the early 1970s to hit 100,000 apartment units (approximately 80 years to build the first 100,000 apartment homes).

The early 1970s saw a boom and it only took 15 more years to build the next 100,000. In 1986 the Denver area had 200,000 apartment homes, but it took 27 years to reach 300,000. The development cycle that began ten years ago has brought us to where we are today: 400,000 apartment homes!

When will we hit half a million apartments? Based upon the current rate, it’s possible that there will be 500,000 units before the end of the decade.


Who Developed All these Apartments?

With the pipeline of new apartments at record high of nearly 120,000 units in over 500 different projects, we have often been asked, who are the most active developers? We totaled the current number of apartments and number of projects by developer and summarized them in a (top 25) table below. Carmel Partners easily takes the top spot with 3,068 units, under construction and in planning. With 12 projects, The Garrett Companies has more total projects than Carmel’s 9, but fewer total apartments at 2,612. Trammell Crow Residential comes in third in both rankings.

We also combined the pipelines of Northern Colorado (Larimer and Weld Counties) and the Colorado Springs region with the Denver metro area to determine the most active developers along the Front Range. When all three markets are totaled, a new leader emerges by the name of Thompson Thrift Residential (fka Watermark Residential), with 4,348 apartments in 14 properties. The Garrett Companies remains in second place, but now with 3,808 apartments in 17 properties, well ahead of Carmel Partners, whose numbers did not change from the above table because all of their properties are in the Denver metro area. The total Front Range pipeline exceeds 150,000 apartments in 682 projects.


Most Active Developers in
The Last 10 Years

Moving from the current pipeline to completed projects, who has built the most apartments over the last 10 years in the Denver region? As shown in the table below, Holland Residential is the leader with 4,401 apartments built in 16 properties since 2012. Embrey Partners is next with 4,192 apartments in 13 properties. Two companies have built, or are completing, 19 new communities – Journey Homes and The Garrett Companies, although Journey Homes comes in third place with 4,149 apartments. The Garrett Companies has a fewer 3,957 units.


Most Active Developers of
All Time

Finally, going back even further, who are the all-time leaders in Colorado? While we do not know who built some of the oldest apartment communities along the Front Range, we have developers assigned to 291,500 apartments in 1,432 properties. Easily at the top of the list is Trammell Crow Residential with almost 9,000 apartments in 31 properties. We recognize that TCR had several different partners in charge of the Denver market over the years, some of whom started their own construction companies that also appear on these lists.

In second place is Carmel Companies, led by Kal Zeff, the father of Carmel Partners’ owner Ron Zeff. Kal built almost 7,900 units in 28 properties during his career. In third is Fairmark Residential, formerly known as Fairfield Residential, with 6,700 apartments in 19 properties. When looking at the total number of communities, Legacy Partners has the third highest count at 23 individual communities.