on the move
From the gold mining base camp originally formed on the banks of South Platte River to the thriving urban metropolis that it is today, there is no doubt that Denver is On the Move. So what is it that is so unique about Denver? And what makes Denver a great place to live? That question is easy to answer, it’s not what makes Denver so great, it’s who – the people who choose to live here.
“The West is a semi-arid area and sometimes you can have harsh conditions even down here below the mountains,” says Governor Hickenlooper, who is fond of noting that barn raisings were more common than shootouts. “What really allowed the West to be settled was the wagon train, where everyone is organized, working together, and has their own chores and tasks. That’s how individuals survived.”
“People,” he notes, “have a broader self-interest than they often think they do.”
Denver exhibited this spirit of cooperation from the outset. In 1866, eight years after its founding, Denver residents received the crushing news that the Transcontinental Railroad would bypass them in favor of Cheyenne, 100 miles to the north in Wyoming. Desperate even back then to not be left off “the grid,” Denver’s 4,800 residents raised nearly $1 million to construct a railroad spur to Cheyenne, a three-year project that cemented the town’s status as the metropolis of the mountain west.
Fast forward to the 2000’s and Denver is doing it again. Using an unprecedented public-private partnership that combines private funding, local tax dollars and federal grants, Denver has done something no other major metro area has accomplished in the past decade, though a number of cities have tried. At a moment when aging mass transit systems in several major cities are capturing headlines for mismanagement, chronic delays and even deaths, Denver has unveiled a shiny new and widely praised network: 68 stations along 10 different spurs, covering 98 miles, with another 15 miles still to come. Even before the new lines opened, 77,000 people were riding light rail each day, making it the eighth-largest system in the country even though Denver is not in the top 20 cities for population. The effects on the region’s quality of life have been measurable and also surprising. Originally intended to unclog congested highways and defeat a stubborn brown smog that was as unhealthy as it was ugly, the new rail system has proven that its greatest value is the remarkable changes in land use its stations have prompted, from revitalizing moribund neighborhoods to creating new thriving transit-based communities.
“We are talking about a culture-transforming moment,” says Denver mayor Michael Hancock. “Light rail has really moved Denver into the 21st century.”
How the $7.6 billion FasTracks project saved Denver from a dreaded fate known as
Urban Sprawl is the story of regional cooperation that required the buy-in of businesspeople, elected officials, civil servants and environmentalists across the entire region. Their ability to work collectively—and the public’s willingness to approve major taxpayer investments— has created a transit system that is already altering Denver’s perception of itself, turning an auto- centric city into a higher-density, tightly-integrated urban center that aims to outcompete the
bigger, older coastal cities on the global stage.
“I think Denver could disrupt Silicon Valley as the hotbed of innovative technologies,” says Stuart Wall, the New York-based CEO of Signpost, an automated, small-business platform provider, which opened a 30-person office in a former stable near a downtown light rail station two years ago. “San Francisco has an oversupply of tech firms and is enormously expensive. If I were to do it all over again, I would consider having our headquarters here and our satellite office in New York.”
“We’ve become a top destination for millennials, and FasTracks is a significant part of that,” says Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
And it all happened because Coloradans across the base of the Front Range were willing to set aside crippling rivalries and make some big collective investments in themselves.
Do you have the spirit of the gold rush miners? Are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good? Then Denver may just be the place for you. Come check it out and see for yourself why Denver is On the Move!