AURORA | Unmasked smiles abounded in Aurora’s eastern flank Thursday as politicos from across the metroplex gathered beside a 110-foot clocktower to celebrate the proliferation of development in the area.
Gov. Jared Polis joined developers, city lever-pullers and a smattering of lawmakers and candidates from Aurora and Adams County to cut the proverbial ribbon on the latest stage of development for Aurora Highlands, the massive new community slowly appearing on Aurora’s northeastern edge.
Now about four years into turning dirt, the project is anticipated to generate about 23,000 homes over nearly 3,000 acres in its first phase over the next decade. The project could boast as many as 60,000 new residents in a 5,000-acre area in the long-term.
“People think of what Highlands Ranch did for the south metro area, well the Aurora Highlands can do (that) for Aurora,” late Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan told the Sentinel when the project was first announced in March 2017.
Hogan, who served Aurora in the state legislature and on city council for more than four decades, died following a cancer diagnosis in 2018. He was an ardent believer in Aurora’s eastern expansion.
“If you want to see some of the areas with the biggest opportunities in Aurora, go east, my friends,” he said in his final state of the city address in 2017.
Thursday marked the three-year anniversary of Hogan’s death.
“It was clear Mayor Hogan was always thinking about Aurora,” current Mayor Mike Coffman said. “ … Everywhere you look in Aurora you can see his influence. You can see his imprint and the resulting growth continuing at this very moment … May our collective efforts live up to the standard set by one of Aurora’s most dedicated leaders, the late Mayor Hogan.”
Developers on Thursday unveiled a plaque commemorating Hogan’s tenure with the city.
“Mayor Hogan was a driving force for Aurora’s long-term commitment to capital projects and focused on bolstering infrastructure and improving transportation to provide greater access and mobility throughout the area,” a spokesperson for The Highlands wrote in a statement.
Hogan’s widow, Becky Hogan, is currently a candidate for Aurora City Council. She and his children attended the gathering yesterday.
For years, Hogan lobbied on Aurora’s behalf as development surrounding Denver International Airport mushroomed. The glad-handing Thursday marked the latest public turn of the screw in those negotiations.
Hogan staunchly stumped for Aurora’s piece of a 1988 agreement that governed land use around the airport for nearly two decades. In 2015, Denver and Adams County voters signed off on an amendment to the original pact that gave Denver the right to develop up to 1,500 acres of land around the airport following an up-front $10 million payment to Adams County cities. It also dictated that Denver has to evenly split tax revenues that come from new businesses with surrounding municipalities.
Several Aurora City Council people now sit on the Aerotropolis Regional Transportation Authority, a board created in 2018 tasked with overseeing the financing and implementation of infrastructure in a 3,000-acre plot encompassing the new Highlands Development.
The overall aerotropolis region, which sits in a 21,000-acre swath of land south of DIA, is expected to generate 74,000 new jobs, millions of square feet of commercial space and 75,000 housing units in the next two decades, Polis said at the event.
He used The Highlands project to promote a recently introduced transportation package currently moving through the state legislature.
“The foundation of this project is infrastructure and these investments are a big catalyst for creating a good economy for Aurora but also for the broader region,” Polis said. “Right now, we are working with Colorado legislators on the historic transportation and infrastructure package that really align to help meet the needs of keeping communities and job opportunities accessible for Coloradans across our state. Here, in the Aurora Highlands, I am excited to speak for many of us when I say that the opportunities are endless with the success of this project. And in the coming years we will see the community take shape.”