Developers unveil plans for 5,000-acre Aurora Highlands, south of DIA — bringing 60,000 new residents

If granted approval from council members and county commissioners, initial construction on the project could begin with infrastructure improvements this fall.

AURORA | The Highlands are on their way to Aurora, and they’re going to be big.

At the Aurora Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner Friday night, a consortium of developers formally announced plans for a massive new development south of the Denver International Airport that will bring thousands of new homes, restaurants and commercial and office space, among other amenities, to the city in the coming years.

The first phase of the development, dubbed “The Aurora Highlands,” will span 2,900 acres before growing to nearly 5,000 acres in later phases, according to a press release issued Friday afternoon. The project will fit into the so-called “Aerotropolis” development, which is slated in various forms for the 21,000-acre swath of land south of DIA.

Estimated to one day house about 23,000 families, the area will include several housing options, including attached homes starting at about $200,000 and single family detached houses priced at more than $1 million. If density of the housing component mirrors that currently in Aurora, it would mean an additional 60,000 new residents.

“If it can all come together and come together successfully, it will be just a game changer for Aurora,” Mayor Steve Hogan said. “People think of what Highlands Ranch did for the south metro area, well the Aurora Highlands can do (that) for Aurora.”

Early plans for the behemoth development call for medical campuses, industrial employment centers and a corporate campus. The project is also calling for several new roads and new interchanges on both I-70 and E-470. A rendering of the proposed Aurora Highlands development south of DIA. This image is a screenshot of a video provided courtesy of Amy Larson and COHN Marketing.

“The Aurora Highlands is slated to be one of the largest and most vibrant master-planned communities in Colorado and will set the tone for Aurora’s future growth,” Amy Larson, a spokesperson for the developers, said in a statement.

The project will not have an official green light until both Aurora City Council and Adams County formally sign off on a proposed public-private partnership to construct the development.

Hogan did not provide details as to when a proposal could go before city council. He said the city began negotiating with the developer, dubbed Aurora Highlands LLC, about 15 months ago, but all of the meetings between the two parties have taken place in closed-door executive sessions. Another such meeting to hash out additional details is scheduled to take place at the end of this month, according to Hogan.

“We told them that we weren’t going to engage in speculative negotiation,” Hogan said. “We needed to know what they were proposing before we were going to sit down and seriously talk about it, so it’s taken some time.”

He said that although the project is still tentative, the developer’s public announcement is encouraging.

“I think we’ve made some real, genuine progress,” Hogan said. “Clearly if they’re going to throw something out there for the world to see, they must think prorgess has been made as well.”

Hogan lauded the development group, the members of which have erected a combined 100,000 homes in the southwestern U.S., including the massive 3,500-acre planned community Shadow Creek Ranch in Pearland, Texas.

“The developers are legitimate, deep pockets developers,” Hogan said. “This isn’t a fly-by-night, ‘gee, let’s see if we can talk the city into doing something,’ kind of developer.”

If granted approval from council members and county commissioners, initial construction on the project could begin with infrastructure improvements this fall, according to Larson.