WHEAT RIDGE —Wheat Ridge is hoping to retain elements of its agricultural roots and small-town feel while distinguishing itself as a modern city shaped around smart urban design.
As this vision takes form, marketing and rebranding efforts highlighting things like urban agriculture, affordable living in unique neighborhoods, proximity to Denver and a city on the rise have gained traction and are showing signs of success.
Property values are increasing, and young families priced out of areas like the Highland neighborhood in Denver are moving to the city of 31,000. Events like last summer’s Ridge at 38 Criterium bike race — resurrected after a 30-year hiatus — consistently draw large crowds.
« I think that it’s very important that we’re waving our hands, saying, ‘Wheat Ridge is such a viable choice,’ » said Mayor Joyce Jay. « Right now there’s a movement of people between the ages of 24 and 35 who are educated, beginning careers, marrying and moving. For our own economic development, we want to reach out to those folks. »
Last year, the city started a video series featuring local residents, both old and new, talking about why they love the city they live in. The video are part of the the city’s Channel 8 local access channel, available on Comcast in the city, the city’s website and YouTube channel.
Heather Geyer, Wheat Ridge’s administrative services director, said the seeds were planted for the « Life is Sweet in Wheat Ridge » series after she attended workshops hosted by Peter Kageyama. The author and consultant advocates that cities go beyond simply making themselves functional and focus on being comfortable, fun and engaging places with which people form an emotional connection.
« The last few years we’ve been hearing more and more anecdotal stories about why people are here, » Geyer said. » ‘I stayed because of the house I built;’ I’ have the ability to bike to work;’ ‘I moved here because of Ridge at 38’… »
Wanting to take these anecdotal stories and communicate them to the broader metro area, the idea for a video series was hatched. The name is a play on words on the « Sweet Ridge » moniker that some locals use to refer to their city.
Justin and Chelsea Bunker, ages 33 and 29, purchased a Wheat Ridge home last year after scouring downtown Denver, Olde Town Arvada and the Highland neighborhood.
They looked at almost 40 houses before deciding to buy their home in the 4000 block of Estes Street the second they pulled into the driveway.
Experiences like neighbors stopping by asking to pick apples off a tree from their backyard, falling in love with local businesses and participating in community events along 38th Avenue prompted them to volunteer to be the fifth homeowners profiled in the video series.
Last week, a one-man film crew documented the couple as they played with their dogs in a snow-covered backyard and chatted about their new home and why they moved to the city.
« We love it here in our neighborhood because the yards are gigantic … there’s a dense tree canopy, no sidewalks and the houses are pushed back from the street, which helps add to a sense of community, » said Justin Bunker.
It’s gratifying to hear that sort of enthusiasm after decades of stagnation, said Britta Fisher, executive director of Wheat Ridge 2020.
She added: « It’s really gratifying to hear these personal stories and feel like all the things we’ve been working on are working — the policies we’ve passed, the events we’ve created, the marketing we’ve put out there — have combined to make Wheat Ridge one of the hottest real-estate markets in Colorado. »
Austin Briggs: 303-954-1729, email@example.com or twitter.com/abriggs