The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area had an estimated population of 2,645,209 on July 1, 2012 (the 21st most populous MSA in the U.S.). However, Denver and Aurora combined make up less than half of the Denver Metro Area's population and Aurora has approximately half the population of Denver. The estimated population of the Denver-Aurora, CO Combined Statistical Area was 3,214,218 on July 1, 2012 (16th most populous CSA).
Aurora originated in the 1880s as the town of Fletcher, taking its name from Denver businessman Donald Fletcher who saw it as a real estate opportunity. He and his partners staked out four square miles (10 km2) east of Denver, but the town - and Colorado - struggled mightily after the Silver Crash of 1893. At that point Fletcher skipped town, leaving the community with a huge water debt. Inhabitants decided to rename the town Aurora in 1907, after one of the subdivisions composing the town, and Aurora slowly began to grow in Denver's shadow becoming the fastest-growing city in the United States during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Aurora is composed of hundreds of subdivisions thus carries the name of one of the original development plats from which it sprang.
Although Aurora has long been considered by many only as one of Denver's larger suburbs, Aurora's growing population in recent decades (now over half the size of Denver) has led to efforts for co-equal recognition with its larger neighbor. Former mayor Dennis Champine once expressed the somewhat whimsical notion that eventually the area would be called the "Aurora/Denver Metropolitan Area". Indeed, since the 2000 Census Aurora has surpassed Denver in land area, and much of Aurora is undeveloped, while Denver is more fully built-out. However, such efforts are somewhat hampered by the lack of a large, historically important central business district in the city. Aurora is largely suburban in character, as evidenced by the city's modest collection of tall buildings.
A large military presence has existed in Aurora since the early 20th century. In 1918, Army General Hospital #21 (later renamed Fitzsimons Army Hospital) opened, with the U.S. government expanding and upgrading the hospital facilities in 1941 just in time to care for the wounded servicemen of World War II. Lowry Air Force Base was opened in 1938, straddling the border of Aurora and Denver. It eventually closed in 1994, and was redeveloped into a master-planned community featuring residential, commercial, business and educational facilities. In 1942, the Army Air Corps built Buckley Field, which over the course of history has been renamed Naval Air Station, Buckley Air National Guard Base and finally Buckley Air Force Base. The base, home of the 460th Space Wing and the 140th Wing Colorado Air National Guard, is Aurora's largest employer.
President Warren G. Harding visited Fitzsimons Army Hospital in 1923, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited in 1936. In 1943 the hospital was the birthplace of 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. President Dwight D. Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack at Fitzsimons for seven weeks during the fall of 1955. Decommissioned in 1999, the facility is part of the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado Denver, and the Fitzsimons Life Science District. The Anschutz Medical Campus also includes the University of Colorado Hospital, which moved to Aurora from Denver in 2007, and the Children's Hospital. The first carbon-ion radiotherapy research and treatment facility in the U.S. has been proposed at the site. These facilities will employ a workforce of 32,000 at build-out.
In 1965, mayor Norma O. Walker became the first woman to head a U.S. city with a population over 60,000.
In 1979, it was announced that a science fiction theme park would be built in Aurora using the sets of a 50-million dollar film based on the fantasy novel Lord of Light. However, due to legal problems the project was never completed. The script of the unmade film project, renamed Argo, was used as cover for the "Canadian Caper": the exfiltration of six U.S. diplomatic staff trapped by the Iranian hostage crisis.
In 1993, Cherry Creek State Park on the southwestern edge of Aurora was the location for the papal mass of the 8th World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II, attended by an estimated 500,000 people.
In 2004, Aurora was honored as the Sports Illustrated magazine's 50th Anniversary "Sportstown" for Colorado because of its exemplary involvement in facilitating and enhancing sports. The city attracts more than 30 regional and national sports tournaments annually to Aurora's fields, which include the 220-acre (0.89 km2) Aurora Sports Park opened in 2003. Aurora's active populace is also reflected in the variety of professional athletes hailing from the city. Aurora's first semi-professional sports franchise, the Aurora Cavalry in the International Basketball League, began play in 2006 but folded by season's end due to budget mishaps.
Aurora is split among three counties and lies distant from the respective county seats. A consolidated city and county government was considered in the mid-1990s but failed to win approval by city voters. The issue was reconsidered in 2006. Colorado voters created the City and County of Denver in 1902 and the City and County of Broomfield in 2001. A consolidated city and county of Aurora would likely include areas not within the current city limits, but the new city-county boundaries would be set, restricting future expansion.
In 2008, Aurora was designated an All-America City by the National Civic League.
In 2017, the Republic of El Salvador opened a consulate in Aurora, serving Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
On July 20, 2012, Aurora was the site of the second largest mass shooting in terms of number of casualties in United States history, and the second-deadliest shooting in Colorado after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The shooting occurred just after midnight, when James Eagan Holmes opened fire during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in a Century movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. Holmes was arrested within 12 hours of the incident, and was sentenced to 12 life sentences in prison with an additional required 3,318 years. The shooting drew an international response from world leaders. U.S. President Barack Obama visited victims, as well as local and state officials, and addressed the nation in a televised address from Aurora on July 22. Actor Christian Bale, who plays Batman in the film, also visited some victims in hospitals. The events marked a turning point in recognition and public perception of the city; rather than referring to the site as being in "Denver" or "suburban Denver", as would have been typical before the event, virtually all media accounts of the incident unequivocally named "Aurora" as its location.
Aurora is located at 39°43′N 104°50′W (39.73, -104.83). The city's official elevation, posted on signs at the city limits, is 5,471 feet (1,668 m). However, the city spans a difference in elevation of nearly 1,000 feet (300 m). The lowest elevation of 5,285 feet (1,611 m) is found at the point where Sand Creek crosses the city limit in the northwest corner of the city, while the highest elevation of 6,229 feet (1,899 m) is on the extreme southern border of the city in Douglas County, near the intersection of Inspiration and Gartrell roads. The city itself has the largest number of enclaves in the state. The city also has four exclaves.
As of the 2000 census, the city had a total area of 142.7 square miles (370 km2), of which 142.5 square miles (369 km2) was land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2), or 0.17%, was water. By 2010, the city had grown to 154.7 square miles (401 km2), surpassing Denver's 153.0 square miles (396 km2) and ranking as the 54th largest U.S. city in land area.
Aurora is composed of dozens of neighborhoods, districts and (current and former) military installations. Among them:
Aurora experiences a semi-arid climate and High-Desert Climate (Köppen climate classification BSk), with four distinct seasons and modest precipitation year-round. Summers range from mild to hot, with generally low humidity and frequent afternoon thunderstorms, and Aurora also averages about one dozen tornado warnings throughout tornado season, running from April–July. Although a touchdown does occur every couple of years, tornadoes are typically weak and short lived, but there is a long history of dangerous and devastating tornadoes. Aurora residents typically hear the tornado sirens go off numerous times more than residents in Denver, to the West. All of Aurora is located east of I-25, where tornado alley begins. Hailstorms, at times 1–2'+ deep happen on occasion, and typical hailstorms are very common throughout these months. July is the warmest month of the year, with an average high of 89 °F (32 °C) and an average low of 57 °F (14 °C). Winters range from mild to occasional bitter cold, with periods of sunshine alternating with periods of snow, high winds and very low temperatures. December is the coldest month of the year, with an average high of 43 °F (6 °C) and an average low of 17 °F (−8 °C). The average first snowfall in the Aurora area occurs in late October and the average final snowfall occurs in late April, although snow has fallen as early as September 4 and as late as June 5. Generally, deciduous trees in the area are bare from mid October to late April.
As of the 2010 census, there were 325,078 people, 121,191 households, and 73,036 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,939.6 inhabitants per square mile (748.9/km2). There were 131,040 housing units at an average density of 766.7 per square mile (296.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.1% White, 15.7% African American, 4.9% Asian (1.1% Korean, 0.8% Vietnamese, 0.5% Filipino, 0.5% Chinese, 0.5% Indian, 0.2% Japanese, 0.1% Thai, 0.1% Cambodian, 0.1% Burmese, 0.1% Nepalese, 0.1% Pakistani, 0.1% Indonesian), 1.0% Native American, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 11.6% from other races, and 5.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 28.7% of the population; 21.9% of Aurora's population is of Mexican heritage, 1.0% Salvadoran, 0.7% Puerto Rican, 0.4% Guatemalan, 0.3% Honduran, 0.3% Peruvian, 0.2% Cuban, 0.2% Colombian and 0.1% Nicaraguan . Non-Hispanic Whites were 47.3% of the population in 2010, compared to 85.1% in 1980.
Aurora is a center of Colorado's refugee population. There are about 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans living in the Denver-Aurora area. There is also a sizable population of Nepalese refugees.
There were 121,191 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.8% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.6 and the average family size was 3.2.
In the city, the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 37.6% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 8.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 100.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,507, and the median income for a family was $52,551. Males had a median income of $35,963 versus $30,080 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,095. About 6.8% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.0% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.
According to the Aurora Economic Development Council, the largest public employers in the city are:
According to the Aurora Economic Development Council, the top 10 largest private employers in the city are:
Other significant businesses include Mexicana de Aviación, and the Aurora Mental Health Center.
The city of Aurora levies an Occupational Privilege Tax (OPT or Head Tax) on employers and employees.If any employee performs work in the city limits and is paid over US$500.00 for that work in a single month, the employee and employer are both liable for the OPT regardless of where the main business office is located or headquartered.
Both employer and employees are liable for US$2.00 per month.
It is the employer's responsibility to withhold, remit, and file the OPT returns. If an employer does not comply, they can be held liable for both portions of the OPT as well as penalties and interest.
The city of Aurora manages more than 100 parks, more than 6,000 acres (24 km2) of open space and natural areas, and six award-winning municipal golf courses (Aurora Hills, Meadow Hills, Murphy Creek, Saddle Rock, Springhill and Fitzsimons). Aurora also is home to several privately owned golf courses including CommonGround Golf Course, Heather Ridge Country Club, Heritage Eagle Bend Golf Club, John F. Kennedy Golf Course and Valley Country Club.
Star K Ranch, home to Aurora's Morrison Nature Center, provides important habitat for wildlife. It has several trails for nature exploration, including access to the Sand Creek Greenway Trail. Jewell Wetland, a 50-acre (200,000 m2) wooded wetland, features trails, boardwalk/deck access into the wetland and a butterfly garden. Aurora Reservoir and Quincy Reservoir offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor water pursuits.
DeLaney Farm, site of Aurora's famous historic round barn, has 130 acres (0.53 km2) of open space, trails with access to the High Line Canal, an organic garden managed by Denver Urban Gardens, and two structures on the National Register of Historic Places. The Plains Conservation Center, with 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) of native shortgrass prairie, hosts a variety of educational programs.
Twenty-six historic sites and landmarks are managed by the city of Aurora, including the Gully Homestead of 1870, the Victorian-style Centennial House of 1890, the privately owned American War Mothers National Memorial Home, the Art Deco-style KOA Building of 1934, the DeLaney Round Barn of 1902, and Lowry Building 800, the interim headquarters for the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1955 to 1958.
The Aurora Fox Theatre & Arts Center, another historic landmark, is a 245-seat performing arts facility in the Aurora Cultural Arts District, along East Colfax Avenue.
The Aurora History Museum is a community-based cultural center featuring a permanent exhibit on Aurora history and two changing exhibit galleries touching on topics related to history and decorative arts.
The Aurora Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra established in 1978, offers a full season of full orchestra concerts annually as well as smaller chamber ensemble performances.
The Aurora Public Library serves its population, providing four main branches, four PC centers, and a variety of events throughout the year to its population.
The city of Aurora operates under a council-manager form of government, where the city manager runs the city's day-to-day operations with general guidance from the city council. The Aurora City Council is composed of a mayor and ten council members. Six members are elected from districts the other four are elected at large. The mayor is elected by the entire city. Aurora's mayor role is largely ceremonial, but the mayor does have direct impact on policy issues as the head of city council.
This full-service city is protected by the Aurora Police Department, one of only 10 law enforcement agencies in Colorado to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; the Aurora Fire Department, which is accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International; and a Public Safety Communications dispatch call center. The Aurora Municipal Courts handles a wide variety of offense violations, and the Aurora Detention Center is a 72-hour adult holding facility.
The city of Aurora owns the former Guiraud Ranch in Park County. Now the Buffalo Peaks Ranch, it is located on Colorado State Highway 9 near the ghost town of Garo between Fairplay and Hartsel. The Guiraud Ranch was operated from 1875 until her death in 1909 by the French emigrant, Marie Guiraud.
Aurora straddles Interstate 70, Interstate 225 and the E-470 beltway. The Regional Transportation District's light rail transit system was extended to serve the southwestern edge of Aurora on November 17, 2006. The H Line stops at Aurora's Dayton and Nine Mile Stations; a comprehensive network of feeder buses in southern Aurora serve the latter. An extension of light rail along I-225 through the city is planned to connect with a commuter rail line between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport (DIA), both scheduled for completion by 2017 (see FasTracks). Much of Aurora is more convenient to DIA than Denver itself. This proximity is a factor in the expected growth of the E-470 corridor directly south of DIA, projected to eventually accommodate 250,000 additional Aurora residents. On February 24, 2017, the Regional Transportation District opened the R-Line that runs from the Lincoln Station in Lone Tree south of Denver, to Peoria Station in NE Denver, where riders may board the A line providing service from Union Station in downtown Denver with several stops to Denver International Airport. The R Line makes multiple stops through the core of the central district of the City. Currently, a single day pass can pay the fare for any of the District's buses, light-rail or commuter-rail modes of transportation. So a single pass can be used to ride a bus to a light-rail station that connects to commuter-rail, like the A Line to the Airport.
In 2014 the U.S.A. Powerlifting Raw Nationals and the IPF Open Powerlifting World Championships were both held in Aurora, Colorado. The WC was the 35th Women and 44th Men open Powerlifting Championships, and it was held on the Radisson Hotel Denver Southeast.
Some notable individuals who were born in or have lived in Aurora include:comic book artist J. Scott Campbell
mixed martial arts fighter Michelle Waterson
U.S. Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry
Mixed Martial Arts Fighter and Broadcaster Brendan Schaub
Former Pornographic Actress with the stage name Penny Flame Jennifer Ketcham
Aurora has a single sister city, Adama in Ethiopia, which was established in 2014 after Aurora Sister Cities International was resurrected in 2013. Aurora had a previous sister city program from 1988 to 2004.