ARCHIVED  July 11, 2003

Fort Lupton looks to join growth trend

FORT LUPTON — At just over 7,000 residents, Fort Lupton seems to be standing still in time while communities to the south, west and even north begin to take on larger proportions.

Though rampant growth is not knocking at Fort Lupton’s door, this does not mean the town is sitting idly by doing nothing. The city has developed several master plans in anticipation of growing to18,000 to 20,000 people over the next 20 or so years, according to Brian Funderburk, city manager.

Right now, however, one of the most noticeable changes is town dynamics. Though Fort Lupton continues to nurture its agricultural roots, it’s becoming less of a bedroom community and a melting pot representing many ethnic groups.

New residents are drawn to the town’s small-town atmosphere. Funderburk said these residents bring with them new ideas on what they want to see in Fort Lupton.

New business, facilities

In June, Fort Lupton broke ground on a new $7 million recreation center, Safeway celebrates its one-year anniversary this summer and the Bank of Colorado is building a new facility next door to the grocery store. “We feel that with a combination of the activities we have and the new rec center, we’re optimistic that growth will find its way back here. The economy is slow right now,´ said Funderburk. That sentiment is echoed throughout the community.

Fort Lupton is spending millions on capital improvement projects that will strengthen its ability to be ready when growth does happen. “For a long time they had constraints with the water treatment plant,” Funderburk said.

Projects include expansion of the water treatment tank and north sewer lift and storm drainage work.

In addition, the fire district recently had a successful bond issue to build a new fire station and the school district has received authorization to build a new gymnasium between the high school and elementary school. “The fire station reflects growth of the area,” Funderburk said.

The town also is putting together a business corridor master plan.”We’re exploring parking issues, traffic, pedestrian access, building facades. We want to give people reasons to walk around downtown and shop downtown,´ said Funderburk. Town officials are also looking into a historical plan, which could put some Fort Lupton buildings on the historic registry and thereby qualify for improvement funds.

Cost of development high

John Dent, president of the Fort Lupton Economic Council, said one of the deterrents to growth in Fort Lupton has been the cost of development in the community. Whereas Brighton — just seven miles south and bursting with residential growth — has a reverse osmosis water system, Fort Lupton is committed to pricier Big Thompson water.

Rail access is a definite feather in Fort Lupton’s cap, Dent said. “We think we’re particularly poised for those kind of industries that need rail access or benefit from or are offshoots of businesses that do need rail access.”

Like all other communities, Fort Lupton is interested in attracting clean, non-polluting industry.

In addition to agriculture, Fort Lupton is home to a co-generation plant, a large greenhouse where tomatoes are grown and Colorado Railcar. The oil and gas industry has a large presence in the Fort Lupton area and spiking gas prices provide “a very stabilizing factor,” according to Dent.

But you can’t buy a pair of pants in Fort Lupton, Dent said. “Fort Lupton is under the influence of Denver, in terms of retail. More and more people are shopping elsewhere. We don’t have an independent retail situation in Fort Lupton. People go to other places to do their primary shopping, other than groceries.” Brighton, Northglenn and Denver are the beneficiaries of such retail leakage.

“Wal-Mart in Brighton is big. You see more Fort Lupton people there than you do in Fort Lupton.”

George Musselman, owner of George’s True Value Hardware Store Inc. and president of the Fort Lupton Chamber of Commerce, said there’s a mixed feeling among retailers as to how the local economy is doing. Those who are doing well obviously think things are going well while those struggling take the opposite view.

Being a bedroom community means commuters often shop near their work, not their home. “A trend I have noticed in my industry, even in Fort Lupton, is that once people have projects going on, convenience shopping is important so they don’t have to run all over the country.”

Residential activity is almost at a standstill. Just 32 single-family residential buildings permits were issued in 2002, and only four single-family building permits have been issued as of the end of June this year.

Nonetheless, Dent said the town is optimistic that residential building will pick back up. Two new developments are in the works, one at Coyote Creek — the town’s golf course — and Apple Farms, across Colorado Highway 52, which will have 100 or so lots.

Some of the new residential development is an offshoot of growth spurred by Denver International Airport and E-470. “We do historically have a fair number of pilots and related airline people who want rural acreages,´ said Dent.”We also have a growing number of people who work in Denver and environs who are looking for less expensive housing.”

FORT LUPTON — At just over 7,000 residents, Fort Lupton seems to be standing still in time while communities to the south, west and even north begin to take on larger proportions.

Though rampant growth is not knocking at Fort Lupton’s door, this does not mean the town is sitting idly by doing nothing. The city has developed several master plans in anticipation of growing to18,000 to 20,000 people over the next 20 or so years, according to Brian Funderburk, city manager.

Right now, however, one of the most noticeable changes is town dynamics. Though Fort Lupton continues to nurture its…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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