AURORA, Colo. -- It's the third largest city in Colorado, with a population of 350,000, yet it has no true downtown.
Now, the City of Aurora is exploring the possibility of building a downtown as part of a new initiative called Aurora Places, a comprehensive plan and vision of Aurora’s future 10-20 years from now. According to its website, Aurora Places is a “road map detailing the long-term vision for land use and development,” for Aurora.
Part of that plan includes the idea of a true downtown urban center.
”It’s very exciting,” said Bob Watkins, project manager of Aurora Places.
Watkins gave our Denver7 crew a bird's eye view from atop the Aurora Municipal Building of 60 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the municipal building that could one day be a vertical downtown or urban center.
”We're willing to go up into the air if that's what makes sense,” said Watkins. “We’ve found folks are very interested in having places that attract people, jobs, entertainment."
The plan is also exciting to residents.
“I think it's always a good idea to bring in things that help the city,” said new mom, Ellena Lee. “I think it's a great idea. This place has nothing and it needs something where people can gather and have fun, eat and things like that.”
Another location for a possible downtown Aurora is the area around the booming Anschutz Medical Campus on East Colfax, where billions in new infrastructure is already in place.
Consultants see huge potential.
“It's really inspiring to come to a city that has so much going for it,” said Doug Hammel with Houseal Lavigne Associates, the firm the city of Aurora hired to help implement a comprehensive plan for growth. “We bring best practices, in terms of what other communities are doing. And we’re going to be working with everybody to make sure we get the right concept in place.”
A new light rail line on the I-225 corridor is also set to open later this year and something that attracts development.
“Wherever we have a light rail station, it provides a lot of energy for this kind of development,” said Watkins.
For now, the idea is very young. Aurora has months, maybe years of gathering public input before anything is, ‘set in stone,’ Watkins said.
But for Watkins, the possibilities are certainly within reach.
”This is the project of my career, I think,” he said. “I would call it an urban downtown. How high it goes up in air is something that we would determine in the future.”