Money magazine recently named Parker, Colorado, the second-best place to live in the United States. But it also showed plenty of love for the City and County of Broomfield, a north metro suburb that finished eighteenth on the roster. Moreover, Broomfield recently ranked fourth on separate CNN and U.S. News & World Report lists naming the country's healthiest communities; Douglas County, home to Parker, landed in the second slots of each.
We visited Broomfield on Saturday, September 26, to get a feel for what's brought the place to the attention of so many national tastemakers. What we discovered was a once modest spot on the map that's been supersized in recent years thanks to its proximity to Boulder, which remains highly appealing and notably unaffordable for anyone with a typical middle-class income.
The result is a juxtaposition of conservative longtime residents and liberal millennial newcomers whose arrival has awakened what was once a sleepy bedroom community.
The Money blurb about Broomfield focuses on its location, location, location, "less than twenty miles from Denver and Boulder and within eyesight of the soaring Rockies," as well as the recreational opportunities afforded by its "ten parks, four trail systems and a variety of green spaces, many with ponds, fishing decks and outdoor art exhibits," and employment options offered by two of its most prominent corporate residents, Noodles & Company and Crocs. But the mag also characterizes Broomfield as a market ripe for house hunters: "At just over $470,000, the city’s median home price is a steal compared to Boulder’s $789,000 price tag."
Most of those properties aren't nearly as trendy as Boulder homes. Many of Broomfield's neighborhoods are lined with simple ranch houses or generic two-story abodes that could have been built at any point during the past half-century. (Broomfield incorporated in 1961 and become Colorado's 64th county after a statewide vote in 1998.) The municipality is still clinging zealously to large swaths of open space — acre upon acre of grassy stretches are just steps away from residential sections — even as the pressure to develop them continues to build.
From a demographic standpoint, Broomfield isn't quite as white as Parker, but close: 86.1 percent, according to the 2010 census, compared to 90.07 percent. But both cities have seen similar booms: In 1960, Broomfield's population was just 4,535; as of 2019, an estimated 70,465 people live there — a more than 1400 percent increase.
Nonetheless, Broomfield residents are still hanging on to the remaining elements of small-town charm. We stumbled upon an Eagle Scout ceremony at North Midway Park and saw families taking a leisurely stroll around a small lake located near the county's library, accessible from U.S. Highway 36 by way of Westminster Boulevard, whose moniker changes to Main Street at the Broomfield city line.
Indeed, Broomfield and Westminster bleed together in so many places these days that they could be referred to by a joint handle: Not Boulder.
Unlike Parker, Broomfield lacks a traditional downtown, making FlatIron Crossing the closest equivalent. The shopping complex is definitely a main driver of the new Broomfield, yet despite the high incomes of those in nearby areas, it's still struggling to get back up to speed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On September 26, the FlatIron Crossing parking lots were far from overflowing...but then, the weather had no doubt lured many potential shoppers into the great outdoors. Restaurants were the opposite of crowded, and there was no need for large department stores to monitor the number of customers entering, since there weren't nearly enough to make proper social distancing an issue.
Despite Broomfield's proximity to Boulder, we saw plenty of Trump-Pence signs at houses throughout assorted neighborhoods — an indication that the influx of Boulder-leaning progressives has not yet forced out all those who've been in the area since before there was a nearby Macy's or Nordstrom. But time and the likely influx of even more transplants wowed by the portrait of Broomfield painted by Money, CNN and U.S. News & World Report are not on their side.