Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

A 'City of the Future' Is Being Built Around One of the World's Busiest Airports

Colorado News Airports + Flying
by Suzie Dundas Jul 3, 2024

One of the biggest and busiest airports in the country may soon be more than just an airport — it may be a hub for a thriving “aerotropolis.”

If you’ve ever flown into Denver International Airport, you probably know it’s not actually in downtown Denver. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the airport to downtown Denver with no traffic, or you can take a $10 train ride from the airport and reach downtown in about the same time. That means there’s lots of undeveloped land around Denver International Airport, even though it’s one of the busiest airports in the world.

But if a development plan moves forward, flying into Denver may eventually look a bit different. Instead of seeing the airport surrounded by agricultural land and empty fields, travelers may soon see an entire functioning city, with the airport smack in the middle.

An “aerotropolis” is a city built around an airport as its central hub. The Colorado Aerotropolis proposal describes it as being focused on “collaborative, responsible development,” proposing to build a center that attracts businesses that can benefit from having air transportation steps away, including “advanced manufacturing, aerospace, agriculture, renewable energy and healthcare” businesses. The project is supported by area partners ranging from Adams County, Colorado, to the City of Denver and City of Aurora, among others.

colorado aerotropolis - horse statue outside denver airport

There’s currently not a lot of development around Denver International Airport. Photo: Ted Alexander Somerville/Shutterstock

While that may seem boring to travelers, having development near an airport creates economic growth in the region, which can lead to airport updates and expansions that make it easier and quicker to move through the airport as a traveler. And in the short term, it means you may not be bored if you have a long layover. In other cities with similar aerotropolises, you can tour a flight museum (Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta), see the world’s largest flower auction and marketplace (Amsterdam Airport Schiphol), or hit up designer shopping outlets and stay in a luxury Fairmont hotel at Vancouver International Airport.

In interviews about the new Colorado Aerotropolis, developers pointed to other major airports with similar development models as the goal of what they hope to create in Denver. Atlanta, for example, is currently building its own aerotropolis, with plans to have a tourism center within it. And other cities around the world already have similar models. Singapore’s Changi international airport is home to the Jewel, a massive entertainment and shopping development with an on-site hotel and the famous “rain vortex,” the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. And in Munich, Germany, a growing aerotropolis outside the airport is home to not just high-tech businesses and manufacturers, but also a large shopping area, a traditional beer garden and restaurants, a mini-golf course, and more.

colorado aerotropolis - singapore example

Singapore’s aerotropolis is one of the most famous in the world. Photo:

The futuristic mini-city is the result of a ballot initiative in Colorado in which voters agreed to open 1,500 acres around the airport to development, with the goal of creating additional tax revenue and creating jobs for cities around the Denver area. It’s a long-term project, estimated to bring in tax revenue of about $630 million to the region by 2040.

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