Think energized - not suburban. Communities up north form a string of pearls all the way to Fort Collins.
Consider how Colorado has redefined suburbia. The affluent still live beyond the core city. But not so fast. Growth is not exclusively moving out. Denver is experiencing a renaissance after a construction and reclamation boom started by Mayor Federico Pena back in the 1980s.
All the while, the city of Boulder may have become too exclusive. The university town lately has revisited the growth issue and is now wondering if it should invite middle-income earners back to town. Bedroom communities have been transformed.
The broad strokes of the north metro growth beyond Broomfield and Westminster:
LONGMONT - an agricultural hub that has transformed, especially over the past 30 years. Longmont has attracted high tech, aerospace and bio tech companies. There is some spillover from neighboring communities to be sure and Longmont is now recognized as attractive to companies interested in relocating to a clean community that caters to pedestrians, cyclists and coincidentally families. Longmont models itself at times after Boulder, but is certainly no cousin. There is still a small town feel. Longmont is location for the county fairgrounds and offers plenty of recreation amenities as well as a vibrant downtown. Having polished its downtown and throwing support behind the arts, Longmont draws crowds of hungry visitors. The Twin Peaks Mall is up next. Expect to see an outdoor cluster of shops, anchor stores and attractions.
BOULDER - looks can fool. Boulder is no suburb to Denver. With its sprawling university and various government and corporate campuses, the mecca for the active frequently turns the heads in the national media - with good reason. In recent years, the entrepreneurial spirit was subject of a New York Times article. Write a "best list" and you likely will find Boulder in the top 10 or 20. A slow growth policy keeps housing inventory low and expensive compared to surrounding communities, which could be considered suburban to Boulder, but that description is likely to be greeted by a skeptical look. Things are so good in Boulder, the city could afford to turn up its nose to the plans for a high tech park that was to draw on NASA's expertise. Boulder's luxury home sales have outpaced all of the Denver at times in the last year. Traffic jammed on Colorado 119 tells more of the story of exclusivity. The average home is beyond reach of many middle-income earners. Indeed, Boulder is saturated with high achievers and innovators. A large presence of software developers has given Boulder an enviable leg up over larger cities that envy the growth of the nimble companies that are craving more programmers. A large population of federal employees and university staff keep the local economy humming. The university also spawns generation after generation of fresh faces that want to stay.
Smaller cities: Louisville is a family-centered community famed for serving delicious spaghetti to generations from surrounding areas. Once the location of the sprawling Storage Technology (and later Sun) campus, the community has hardly missed a beat in its absence. Though the plan for an energy research center went away (following a company breakup), the community had to follow Boulder's lead and slow down growth. Louisville is distinct from neighboring Lafayette, which shares a ball field with Louisville. It also shares a long-ago history in coal mining with the ambitious smaller communities that have been setting up shop along the I-25 corridor.
Boulder's jobs, much like its tech counterparts in Silicon Valley, produce a spillover into neighboring communities. Many home buyers find the drive from Erie and the Tri-Towns (Firestone, Frederick and Dacono) agreeable enough. Firestone and neighboring Weld community growth has proceeded at a gallup. Though, employment has been growing right in their back yard. Erie today finds itself in the crosshairs of growth that will follow C-470 and I-25. Some 5,000 homes will be built there.
The pearls to the north have not gone unnoticed. Check the annual top cities lists.
Exclusive, attractive and increasingly vibrant, these communities will keep growth in focus. Open space will be a key feature of the years ahead. Traffic is bound to remain a heated topic if rail is not forthcoming soon.
A better description might be highly energized - and even job-sustaining - satellite communities to the metro area.