Monday, July 9, 2012

Original Aurora - Old Street, New Dawn.

Original Aurora in the 1920's - courtesy Aurora History Museum
     It’s no exaggeration to say that Colfax Avenue brought Aurora into being. Aurora’s town founders deliberately placed the suburb on the Colfax streetcar line, which provided a life sustaining connection to Denver. After 1920, when the streetcars gave way to automobiles, Colfax evolved into a four-lane commercial strip that carried America’s main coast-to-coast highway, U.S. 40, through Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood. The traffic helped spur tremendous post-war growth. Aurora’s population boomed from 3,000 in 1940, to nearly 50,000 by 1960, while Colfax’s cluster of motels, department stores, restaurants, and shops became the heart of “downtown Aurora”.

     But not for long. The Denver segment of Interstate 70 opened in 1958, supplanting U.S. 40 as the area’s major east-west highway and diverting cross country motorists away from Colfax. Local traffic also migrated elsewhere, to newer neighborhoods and commercial districts served by faster roads and better parking. Even Aurora’s municipal offices relocated to an off-Colfax address.

     Soon Aurora’s Colfax Strip became another Colorado boom-bust tale. By the early 1970’s, it had fallen on hard times, not quite Skid Row but no longer a thriving downtown hub. Plagued by high crime and low incomes, Aurora’s old downtown seemed immune to all efforts at rehabilitation.

Original Aurora today - Photo by Jonny Barber
     But in the late 1990’s, the district’s fortunes took an abrupt turn for the better. “Original Aurora” found itself the heart of a development triangle, surrounded by major housing and commercial projects and well placed to benefit from redevelopment at the former Lowry Air Force base, Stapleton Airport, and Fitzsimons Army Hospital. Bolstered by the development of the multimillion dollar Florence Square housing complex--Colfax’s first in many years—and banking on the creation of an arts and cultural complex anchored by the Aurora Fox Arts Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Colfax developers and residents are dreaming of a better future. has just joined forces with the Aurora Arts District to redesign their website and assist in marketing and PR for the emerging art scene in Original Aurora. We are seeking input from the community and creative individuals! To volunteer, seek an intern position, or inquire about opportunities for artists in the area, please write

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