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5 takeaways from Centennial's 'State of Our City' address

Fiber-optic internet, trails, 'Smart Cities' initiatives to develop in near future

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In a word, “innovation” describes goals and recent accomplishments in Centennial — building a fiber-optic cable backbone to deliver super-fast internet, joining a Smart Cities Alliance and seeing one of the city’s top employers promise to keep students on the cutting edge in STEM education all carry that thinking forward.

In her first State of Our City address, Mayor Stephanie Piko used that word multiple times.

“I hope you’re just as excited as we are about the opportunities innovation brings not only to Centennial, but our entire region,” Piko told the audience of hundreds of government officials, public-safety officers and business leaders at the April 12 event at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver Tech Center hotel in Centennial.

Thanks to them, the state of the city has never been better, Piko said. As comes as no surprise in the debt-free city, financial problems — or any other problems, aside from the challenge of adjusting to the speed of technological progress — weren’t a topic in the address. Here’s a look at what was.

Success abounds

Centennial saw nearly 2,000 new jobs added from 2016 to 2017, Piko said. More than 6,000 registered or licensed businesses call the city home, according to an informational handout by the city. About 55 percent of people 25 and older in Centennial have bachelor’s degrees, the handout said.

“Colorado has become the state with the second-largest number of employees in the aerospace industry, and (about) 10 percent of those work right here in Centennial,” Piko said.

The city’s second-largest employer, Arrow Electronics, is working with Cherry Creek Schools Foundation to provide tools and opportunities to students and “teach the teachers” how to shape students into innovators in the Cherry Creek School District, a video during Piko’s speech said.

Fiber, ‘Intelligent Transportation’

Quickly snaking its way through the city, Centennial’s fiber-optic cable infrastructure — often referred to as an underground “backbone” — got some shout-outs in the address.

“Our mission: To build a partner-ready piece of infrastructure” for stakeholders, Piko said. The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Arapahoe Libraries, school districts and more public entities — as well as businesses — could benefit from having access to the backbone.

Fiber cables provide fast communication by sending beams of light down thin strands of glass or plastic, contained in a casing and running underground.

Aside from allowing internet providers the access needed to supply faster speeds, the fiber backbone could improve the city's Intelligent Transportation System by sending information to drivers via electronic road signs and enhancing the city’s traffic cameras and sensors, which will allow the city to time traffic lights more accurately to traffic flows.

The city is on its way to completing the 50 miles of new fiber lines around the end of this year. The project kicked off construction in 2016.

‘Smart’ city

Centennial’s cutting-edge fiber system ties in closely to its push to be a “smart” city.

Eighteen years ago, near the time the push to found Centennial got underway, residents were excited for the opportunity “to create a different vision of government that continues to drive Centennial,” Piko said.

“This is us leading in ‘Smart City’ initiatives,” Piko said, like the city’s transportation systems and fiber backbone.

The City of Centennial announced its membership in the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance Sept. 25. It’s a partnership of public, private and academic institutions that includes 12 cities working to make life easier along the central Front Range: Arvada, Aurora, Denver, Centennial, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Lone Tree, Boulder, Longmont, Westminster, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

They plan to share best practices with each other through the alliance. At the time, Piko said all the cities are in the situation of managing growth, and Centennial can’t widen its roads more than they already are — finding solutions to growth will be a task the alliance tackles.

Trailing across town

This year, the city will work toward finalizing the design for the East/West Trail, a gargantuan path that's expected to stretch from the area of E-470 and East Arapahoe Road all the way to South Broadway in the northwest corner of the city. It will connect trails from the High Line Canal to Piney Creek trails.

A Lone Tree Creek Trail segment connecting the area of Centennial Center Park to Cherry Creek State Park will also see progress, Piko said. Construction funds were approved in the city’s 2018 budget.

When finished, the trail will stretch from East Broncos Parkway near Centennial Airport all the way to the state park and link up with several other trails at its north end.

What’s NEXT?

Piko also gave a nod to the city’s upcoming comprehensive plan, called Centennial NEXT.

City staff have been hitting spots around town — like Resolute Brewing Company, Celebrity Lanes bowling alley and more — to give out surveys to residents to get their input on the plan.

Comprehensive plans set priorities and standards for development — pushing for creative architecture, better building materials, enhancing parks and historic areas, beautifying neighborhoods or creating public spaces, according to a city document.

In general, a comprehensive plan can affect priorities for economic development, housing, parks and open space, and transportation.

Centennial adopted its last comprehensive plan in 2004. It's been collecting feedback since May 2016 — by Centennial's count, as of August, the city had interacted with about 2,500 people on the topic through surveys, open-house events or emails received about the project.

For a list of events, to take an online survey or for more information, visit centennialco.gov/centennialnext.

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