Prairie Center, located at the Interstate 76 and E-470 interchange in Brighton, is a fast-developing retail and residential development. Courtesy Prairie Center

Prairie Center in Brighton brings retail, housing

BRIGHTON — Another round of construction is underway at the Prairie Center, promising to bring additional amenities to one of Denver’s fastest-growing suburbs.

Located near the Interstate 76 and E-470 interchange in Brighton, the planned retail and residential development is already home to major anchors such as Home Depot, Target and Kohl’s. And Michael Martinez, director of the Brighton Economic Development Corp., said more is on the way.

“Right now, there are three new restaurants popping up — Red Robin, Old Chicago and a new Arby’s that are all currently under construction,” Martinez said. “We also have Ulta Beauty which just recently received their building permit from the city and will be starting construction soon.”

Martinez believes the renewed activity is essential to keep pace with the area’s burgeoning population. Begun in 2007, the project is now moving into the second of four phases under the guidance of THF Realty, the main property owner and managing developer. According to THF’s website, Prairie Center will have nearly 2 million square feet of retail space once complete.

But a substantial residential community is taking shape alongside the retail, starting with a 288-unit multi-family complex. “The apartments are underway — they’re called the Elements at Prairie Center,” Martinez said. “And we’ll have 280 single-family homes that are slated to go up sometime this year or early next year, so we’re looking at a net gain of almost 600 units, which should translate to just under 2,000 residents.”

Housing is at a premium in Brighton, which has seen a nearly 60 percent increase in population between 2000 and 2010. Martinez credits THF Realty for having the ability to visualize the city’s growth and meet its needs.

“Typically, when you do large developments like this, there are already rooftops to support the retail around the area,” he said. “But the Prairie Center was unique because they went in, and there were literally no homes within a few miles of the power center, it was just retail, so the housing growth is really exciting.”

Martinez expects that those additional rooftops will help get the ball rolling even faster.

“Adding 2,000 residents to Prairie Center land really changes the game from a retail standpoint,” he said. “Companies who needed the additional population to make the case to be here now have that, and they can make a better business decision to be in Brighton.”

At least two hotel chains — Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites — are also on-board as part of the phase two development.

Martinez said the entire project will encompass just more than 2,000 acres once all four phases and several other satellite projects are complete. Still, he said that day may be down the road a bit.

“I would hate to speculate, but as we continue the growth we’re on at the city, I wouldn’t think that it would take more than 20 years for that whole area to be filled,” he said.

Martinez sees this as the fulfillment of a long-standing dream for the community.

“When we as economic developers think about how we try to build our city or affect the development happening in our city, we want to make sure we have the best amenities first and foremost for our residents, so all of the growth happening from a retail standpoint and a housing standpoint, it’s excellent because it really is something that our city has needed for a long time,” he said.

And at this point, everything is on the table.

“Within the EDC and within the city, we’re looking at how we can make the Prairie Center not just a retail destination but a real destination,” Martinez said. That means the possibility of a large concert or sporting venue, among other options.

“Those types of discussions are happening all the time, and it’s nice because most of the time those discussions are coming to us. I think it shows that people are interested in doing things like that because of how popular Brighton is getting.”