According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the City of Aurora is now the 56th largest city in the United States, with a population of 372,000, while Denver is ranked as the 19th largest city, at 732,000.
Denver’s future growth will be limited to controversial redevelopments that squeeze more density into an already crowded city, while Aurora has a land mass slightly larger than Denver’s and about a third of it still undeveloped.
When growth reflects a well-planned vision that respects the environment, meets its transportation needs and addresses workforce housing affordability, then it’s a positive.
If, on the other hand, growth is merely a short-term market-driven response to the demands of individual developers, then, as has too often been the case in Aurora, it simply is adding population to a bedroom suburb whose identity is entirely defined by its subordinate relationship to Denver.
Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of so many past leaders in our city, over the past 55 years that I’ve called Aurora home, our city has been defined as a patchwork of large residential neighborhoods connected by retail strip malls.
It’s as if we are a laboratory for suburban development, with some parts of our city aging successfully while others fall into disrepair.
We can do better.
Redevelopment and Revitalization: When my family came to Aurora in 1964, for my late father’s last assignment with the U.S. Army at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, Colfax Avenue was still the commercial center for Aurora, and the municipal government was located in the vicinity of Colfax Avenue, reinforcing its identity as the center of the city.
The steady decline of the Colfax corridor began in the early 1970s with the move of Aurora’s municipal center, which helped anchor the downtown area to a newer retail area farther south.
Today, unfortunately, much of Colfax is known by its empty storefronts, homelessness and crime. Colfax Avenue will always have a place in my heart because I know what it was, and I fully understand its potential.
My goal is a revitalized Colfax Avenue that is a safe place to live, has a reputation for its restaurants and entertainment, and attracts both artistic and entrepreneurial talent. I can’t reverse history, but I can focus on redeveloping and revitalizing the Colfax corridor in a way that is considerate to its existing small business owners and residents.
Balanced Growth: We have an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes as we plan for Aurora’s future. We have to balance growth with more open space, more parks and more trails for outdoor recreation.
We need to be environmentally sensitive to how we grow, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes economic sense.
Americans are becoming more environmentally conscious, and they are attracted to communities that reflect their values. Whether they are employers deciding where to relocate or potential homeowners looking for a community in which to raise their families, they will want to live in a city that shares their environmental values.
Celebrating Diversity: My late mother immigrated to the United States as a young adult, and I always admired her awe of “everything American.”
She knew what life was like without freedom and opportunity, so she appreciated being an American citizen. I see her love for America in the faces of so many of the immigrants who have made Aurora their new home.
Let’s promote our diversity and the entrepreneurial energy that immigrants bring to Aurora. Aurora is one of the most diverse cities in America, with large Hispanic, African and Asian immigrant communities.
Our diversity should be turned into a commercial advantage. Where there are concentrations of ethnic restaurants and other cultural attractions, let’s give these areas names like “Korea Town” or “Little Ethiopia” and put them on the map and promote them.
Aurora faces tremendous challenges as well as extraordinary opportunities, and I want to be Aurora’s next mayor to help shape its future.
Former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is a candidate for Aurora Mayor.