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Northwest Corridor Booms As Employers Chase Employees

As millennials get older and start families, they are increasingly leaving cities for the suburbs in search of more affordable homes that offer more space.

That is making communities like Westminster, Broomfield and Lafayette in metro Denver’s Northwest Corridor increasingly more enticing.

Westminster's Central Square will host up to 200 events annually.

“They want to be on the west side of town,” Koelbel and Co. Vice President Carl Koelbel said. “That’s beachfront — that’s how they get to the mountains. That market could see a lot of growth in the millennial population, and that will further drive employers wanting to be there.”

Koelbel and Co. has been working in the Northwest Corridor since 1996 when it purchased Centennial Valley, a 175-acre office and retail complex off of U.S. Highway 36 in Louisville. Centennial Valley has been successful because it is less expensive than either Boulder or Denver and has access to an educated workforce, Koelbel said.

Ascent at Downtown Westminster will include 24K SF of retail and 255 residential units.

“Boulder is pricing a lot of companies out of their market, but employees still live in that area,” he said. “They’re looking to relocate out of Boulder, and we provide that option to them.”

In addition to Louisville, Koelbel is working with Mile High Development President George Thorn on Eaton Street Apartments, a mixed-use project that includes 118 affordable apartments wrapping an 800-vehicle parking garage in the new downtown taking shape in Westminster. 

Over the next two years, more than 1M SF of development and $240M of private investment will be built on the site of the old Westminster Mall, which was razed to make room for an urban center in the more-than-100-year-old community. The city is building Central Square, a $5.5M, 1.2-acre plaza that will host up to 200 events annually. 

Minneapolis developer Sherman Associates is building a five-story residential and retail project called Ascent at Downtown Westminster. It will include 24K SF of retail, 255 residential units, including 10% workforce housing at rents lower than market rate, and underground parking. Sherman also has started work on a second mixed-use project just off Central Square.

Other projects in the works include an Alamo Drafthouse and Origin Hotel, which will house a 9K SF Marczyk Fine Foods market in its lobby.

Marczyk Fine Foods will have a 9K SF market in the lobby of the Origin Hotel.

“We are lacking one thing, and that’s a downtown,” Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison said. “Now we have one under construction.”

Atchison said the city still has several other large tracts of land within the city limits that are available for development. He said the city has committed to setting aside 15% of its area as open space. Another 15% has been designated as undevelopable and can only be used for parks, trails, golf courses and recreation centers. 

“We’re looking at quality growth and controlled growth and making sure we can meet the needs of our citizens,” he said. “We will grow vertically, not horizontally.”

Thorn said the municipalities in the Northwest Corridor have been easy to work with and are recruiting companies to the region. For example, Maxar Technologies, which acquired Westminster-based DigitalGlobe in October, recently announced plans to relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Westminster, which amended a 10-year, $6.2M incentive offered to DigitalGlobe in 2013. The city extended the agreement for five years to 2028. Maxar will be within the DigitalGlobe business unit facility. DigitalGlobe employs 1,000 people, with 800 of them in the Westminster facility. The move of Maxar’s headquarters and growth in DigitalGlobe is expected to result in the addition of about 800 jobs over the next eight years.

“Both Westminster and Broomfield are very progressive-thinking, development-oriented cities,” Thorn said. “Virtually at every interchange there’s something important that’s happened. If you look behind the curtain, the cities have been very involved.”

Find out more about what is going on in Denver's Northwest Corridor at The Future of the Northwest Corridor event May 10 at Interpark Broomfield.