Denver International Airport Launches Plan for Multi-Billion Dollar ‘Colorado Aerotropolis’

The new urban plan for the nation’s third busiest airport calls for new commercial development with direct airport access.
Denver International Airport Launches Plan for Multi-Billion Dollar ‘Colorado Aerotropolis’
Frontier Airlines jets sit at gates at Denver International Airport on Sept. 22, 2019, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)
Allan Stein

With its commuter air traffic expected to reach 100 million passengers by 2027, Denver International Airport (DIA) hopes to leverage years of nonstop growth with new business developments around the airport.

The recently formed Aerotropolis Regional Committee announced on June 4 the launch of the Colorado Aerotropolis, a multi-billion urban plan for the region.

“It’s really that we now have this critical mass to make it attractive for all types of business to locate near the airport,” said Ken Cope, DIA senior vice president of real estate.

“A lot of airports just don’t have the available land that we do. Their problem is how to build more aeronautic space. We’ve got the opposite problem. We’ve got so much land—how do we develop all of it? We’re in somewhat of a unique position.”

The airport opened in 1995 on 33,531 acres of city and county land about 20 miles from Denver’s downtown center, replacing the former Stapleton Airport.

Boasting the nation’s longest runway at 16,000 feet, DIA is the world’s sixth busiest airport, with 73 million passengers annually.

The airport includes six active runways, with approval for six more, and 16,000 acres of land yet to be commercially developed.

An aerotropolis is a concentrated area near an airport that allows commercial development to serve the airport and the region.

Neighboring Adams County, Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Federal Heights, and Thornton are additional partners with Denver and DIA in the project.

“The Colorado Aerotropolis provides a unique investment for companies who want to tap into Colorado’s diverse and highly skilled workforce that will build on the region’s success and bring ambitious visions to life,” said Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, in a written statement.

Mr. Cope said DIA already drives more than $34 billion in economic activity in the region each year and is set to “keep growing.”

“Without a doubt, we have seen that air travel has increased exponentially—not only in the United States but worldwide,” he told The Epoch Times.

“I believe that airports will continue to benefit from infrastructure spending.

“We’re going to travel more by air. It connects the world; it opens it up. It really is the hub for commerce. I see airports increasingly will be the primary economic driver for regions, just as Denver airport is for Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region.”

Envisioning Growth

A study determined that the Colorado Aerotropolis could create 74,000 new jobs by 2040, increase area property values by $30 billion, and generate up to $630 billion in tax revenue.

There are currently around 210,000 residents living in and near the Colorado Aerotropolis. The plan envisions 75,000 new housing units for Aerotropolis construction workers.

According to DIA, an aerotropolis typically focuses on commercial and industrial development—“business parks, industrial buildings, distribution centers, commercial office buildings, and hospitality and entertainment venues.”

“Colorado has one of the most educated workforces in the nation, not to mention top-ranked research universities and innovation labs that are well-connected to key industries,” Aurora’s Mayor Mike Coffman said in a statement.

“Colorado Aerotropolis will provide companies direct access to all Colorado has to offer, joining current powerhouses like the Gaylord Rockies, Fitzsimons Innovation Community, and Anschutz Medical Campus.”

The Lake Nona Aerotropolis in Orlando, Florida, boasts 37 square miles of land for retail, commercial, residential, industrial, manufacturing, and other uses that enjoy direct access to Orlando International Airport (MCO).

“Lake Nona’s residents and businesses benefit from their location within the aerotropolis, experiencing less than 15-minute times to MCO’s check-in and TSA security areas,” according to

“This has helped accelerate growth in the community, resulting in Lake Nona being ranked among the best-selling residential communities in the nation for the past 10 years.”

As the nation’s 14th busiest airport, MCO recorded 50 million passengers in 2022, an increase of more than 10 million from the previous year.

Another successful aerotropolis is Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport (DFW) in Texas, where operations generate more than $31 billion in regional economic activity.

Mr. Cope said the Colorado Aerotropolis seeks to attract the “right developers and partners” to build on airport land in the years ahead.

“This is something that will take 50 years, if not more, to build out,” he said. “In the future, it would still be that same type of setup.

“There’s always coordination that needs to occur—not just from an infrastructure standpoint but from a governance and marketing standpoint. Those regional partnerships are important.”

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