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Westminster betting on downtown for economic boom

The city is preparing for more growth, sparked by its innovative Downtown Development Project.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — All this week on 9NEWS morning we're looking at how cities are addressing population growth and preparing for the future.

Some big changes are happening in Westminster, as the city prepares for new growth sparked by its Downtown Development Project.

As part of that project, there's a lot of construction going on along the Boulder Turnpike near Sheridan Boulevard, which used to be home to the Westminster Mall which was razed in 2011.

New buildings are going up, and new businesses moving into the development that will cover 6.5 million square feet when it's finished.

They are calling it "Downtown" Westminster because the city has never really had a downtown area. City leaders have said it will bring an economic boom, and become a cultural and civic hub where residents can shop and visit new restaurants and bars.

RELATED: Downtown Westminster names developer for two office sites totaling 650,000 square feet

They expect the development to be completed in the next 10 to 15 years and said it will add to the city's current population of 113,000 people.

Westminster's history

The city has been around for more than 100 years and is named for a building on the hill that can be seen from all over the metro area. It's the Westminster Castle, but technically it's in unincorporated Adams County.

Never the less, in 1892 the castle was built as the home of Westminster University. The Presbyterian school started drawing people to the area by the turn of the century.

Credit: KUSA

The first permanent settler to build his home in Westminster was Pleasant DeSpain, according to the City of Westminster's web site. In 1870, he built his home on farmland near the intersection of 76th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, the web site says. Soon, other settlers began to move into the area then known as DeSpain Junction.  

Credit: KUSA
DeSpain homestead

In 1911, Westminster officially became incorporated as a city. People moved there for the country feel, and that's what sparked all the open space that the city prides itself on to this day.

Over the past decade or so, Westminster has only grown about 1% a year, much slower than many other places in the metro area. But now it's preparing for more people, lured by the Downtown Development.

The city is putting up affordable housing apartments, and working with RTD to promote the new light rail line and station.  

Credit: KUSA

City leaders have big expectations but are also ready to be patient. They said they're not looking for a complete return on investment for maybe 50 or even 100 years.

They expect to grow slowly and steadily, fueled by the new expansion and the thing that brought people there 100 years ago; lots of open space and great views of the mountains.

This is first in a series of stories to air this week. We're also discussing growth in Silverthorne, Elizabeth, Denver, and Fort Collins.

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