By Guy Nahmiach
As we celebrate Wheat Ridge’s 50th birthday in 2019, there is no question for Wheat Ridge residents that our city is a special place with a high quality of life. Wheat Ridge has long been known for its small town feel, its agricultural heritage, and maybe the best location in the Denver metro area. We are conveniently tucked right along I-70 with only a few minutes drive into the big city for arts and culture or the mountains for outdoor play and recreation. What’s not to love?
What might be less well known around the Denver metro area are the more recent developments in Wheat Ridge that are making our community an even better place to live or open a business.
Our housing market, still offering relatively affordable housing options for renters or new buyers, has nonetheless been strengthening. During the last decade Wheat Ridge’s average single-family home price has increased by 60 percent, beating nearly all of our west metro suburban neighbors.
Wheat Ridge is experiencing an influx of new business and real estate development, providing a facelift to areas in need of investment as well as new shopping and dining options. The Corners development, anchored by Lucky’s market, is jump-starting our “new-look” Wadsworth corridor while additions like Colorado Plus, The Bardo Coffee House, and Right Coast Pizza on 38th Avenue offer a diverse set of complements to long-time community favorites like Clancy’s.
Despite the well-worn jokes about our “naturally occurring retirement community,” our median age has stopped growing. And, in fact, the number of college educated people aged 25-44 has increased faster in Wheat Ridge during this century than in nearby suburban communities.
While our median household income still lags behind the competition, since 2000 Wheat Ridge has been adding households earning at least $100,000 faster than Westminster, Golden, and Lakewood.
It was not always so. In 2005, the City of Wheat Ridge was missing out on the investment that is the lifeblood of any community and we were feeling the effects. We were at a crossroads.
In a search for answers, the city commissioned a report called the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy. The strategy described Wheat Ridge’s history of failing to properly invest in itself. Maintenance of public infrastructure and public spaces had been too lackluster for too long. Homeowners and business owners had accepted a “good enough is good enough” attitude about the condition of their properties. As a result of this self-deprivation and proliferation of low standards, the outside world had received a message that Wheat Ridge was not a good investment. New potential homebuyers and business owners had heeded the warning and avoided our city.
The 2005 Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy was a wake up call, and we listened. By taking its recommendations to heart, by working hard, and by leveraging some good luck, our beloved city is on the rise. This is the new and improved context within which the City of Wheat Ridge is now updating the Revitalization Strategy.
The City Council has impaneled a diverse steering committee of 26 Wheat Ridge residents to guide an update to the strategy. Our job is different from the one required nearly 15 years ago. Today we know we are a competitive city, but our task in 2019 is to figure out how to leverage the good things that Wheat Ridge has developed and nurtured. As a committee, we have held small group discussions all over the city to gather input and hosted a public open house in December to further test our emerging ideas. We will continue to engage with the community over the winter and into the spring.
You can help our steering committee craft this 10-year strategy for an even stronger Wheat Ridge by taking our online survey, available now through March 1 at the city’s website (www.ci.wheatridge.co.us/nrs), and by attending future public events. Please watch the website for updates and new developments as they happen. You can also directly contact me via email at email@example.com to learn more.