Johnson brings new energy to BURA role

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The executive director of the Brighton Urban Renewal Authority - Ryan Johnson - was raised in Westminster.

He watched as the city grew from a relatively small town to a busy and populous Denver suburb.

After Johnson graduated from college, he went to work in his hometown, helping to guide new growth. But he always thought about what his hometown was like when he was little, a place not unlike what he sees in Brighton now.

The new executive director at the Brighton Urban Renewal Authority said he’s excited to be able to help guide some of the growth that he saw fly past growing up in Westminster.

“It’s pretty exciting to be in on the ground floor of all the activity and excitement,” Johnson said. “We still have so much more room to do more; it’s pretty motivating.”

Johnson took over as the authority’s new executive director following a Jan. 18 meeting in which former director Manuel Esquibel announced his retirement and named Johnson as his successor.

Johnson had been the assistant director with BURA for the last eight months. Before that, he served in various capacities with the city of Westminster.

Esquibel told the urban renewal authority commissioners that he had been grooming Johnson for the leadership role, and that Johnson is ready for the task.

Johnson said he is 100 percent focused on his role. Esquibel wore multiple hats, as he was also the city manager.

Which is not to say that BURA’s mission still isn’t a big one for the small staff.

BURA covers four separate areas: downtown, Prairie Center shopping center, the north industrial area to the area around the Adams County government buildings to the south. All have unique needs, Johnson noted, and BURA has worked to provide support for all.

Urban renewal authorities typically are created to increase business vitality in certain neglected areas of cities. They’re funded through a mechanism called tax-increment financing, which uses new tax revenues from a rise in property tax over a base to fund infrastructure projects.

Under Esquibel, BURA embarked on a number of redevelopment projects, from helping with the Armory Performing Arts Center, 300 Strong St., to Prairie Center shopping center in southeast Brighton.

Johnson has a number of goals for the future as well. Current priorities include:

•    South Main Street redevelopment

•    Cannery Lofts: Developer looking to break ground this year

•    Creating a “heart for downtown”

•    Facilitate downtown reinvestment

•    Adams Crossing

•    New administrative policies

•    Energy corridor promotion

“It’s important to keep our energy going in the direction we are going,” Johnson said. “Now we need to take the foundation that’s been laid and continue to progress forward.”