Change seems to be the operative word in Brighton, but with change comes opportunity.
Brighton has seen its fair share of change and growth over the past 20 years, more than doubling the population from roughly 15,000 in 1995 to just under 40,000. This growth has seen Brighton evolve from a small, agricultural town on the outskirts of the Denver metro area to a medium-sized city growing as fast as any city in Colorado.
Change has been an unstoppable force for some time now, and outside of the rapid growth, the city is facing one of its most pivotal changes due to the retirement of veteran city manager Manuel Esquibel. Mr. Esquibel has been key in creating and directing the vision of what Brighton is going to be over the next 20 years, and it is showing now more than ever with the continued growth from both a commercial and residential standpoint.
As previously mentioned, the population growth over the past 20 years has changed Brighton fundamentally, and with rapid growth come increased needs. Recognizing the need to plan responsibly, the city of Brighton recently adopted the “Be Brighton Comprehensive Plan,” a document that describes and illustrates a vision for the physical, social, and economic characteristics of the community in the years ahead and outlines the principles, policies and strategies intended to implement that vision.
From a planning perspective, plans like these are instrumental in how cities prepare for the next iteration of their community. Brighton’s plan does a great job of capturing what Brighton has been, and maintains the small-town feel that residents are accustomed to, while planning for the “big-town” challenges that Brighton face in the very near future.
Looking at commercial and residential growth trends in Colorado, it is no secret that development is moving further and further north. The amount of available land, reasonably priced housing and good access to major interstates has driven development to the north metro area and beyond. That trend will only increase as Colorado continues to be an attractive place to live, work and play.
With nearly 50 percent of its land mass yet to be developed, Brighton presents a very attractive option for development, thanks to careful visioning and leadership over the past 10 years, and Brighton is ready to change as a city. It’s already evident when you look at the energetic new retail popping up all over town, specifically at the Prairie Center, Brighton’s regional power center, and in the heart of the city from historic downtown to South Main Street.
Additionally, Brighton houses the largest available building in Colorado, the former Sears/Kmart distribution center that is 1.3 million square feet of available space. A building this size is a rarity not only in our region but also nationally, and the opportunities that can be realized at the site have piqued the interest of a whole host of national companies looking to expand while capturing all that Colorado has to offer.
As Brighton looks at its next phase as a city, all of the planning and visioning will allow the city to prosper indefinitely, even as the city itself faces prompt change. It’s no coincidence that Brighton is an attractive place to start a family or relocate a business, and with all of the opportunity that awaits the city, Brighton is ready to tackle the change and embrace it. Developers are always looking for the next big thing and in Brighton, we are confident that the next big thing is already here.
Michael Martinez is executive director of the Brighton Economic Development Corp. He can be reached at 303-655-2165 or via email at MPMartinez@brightonedc.org.