A-town pitching its K-town

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AURORA | The easiest way to draw people into Aurora to spend money may be harnessing the city’s diverse culture — which is why a group of city officials are exploring the creation of Korea Town, on Aurora’s western edge.

A cluster of Korean-owned businesses, from cafes and restaurants to hair salons and karaoke clubs, are prominent around South Havana Street and down toward Parker Road. It’s unclear where the boundaries of Korea Town would be or even if the idea is a sure thing. But Aurora City Councilman Dave Gruber, an at-large member elected in November, has come to be a proponent and leader in the effort after being approached with the idea on the campaign trail, thinks the designation could carry a number of positives for the city.

Now, the idea is in its early stages. The city has formed a committee made up of local leaders to identify whether Korea Town can be a reality.

Gruber told the Aurora Sentinel the creation of a district dedicated to Korean culture and business could act as a destination, something Aurora is mostly without.

The councilman, who spent some time in Korea while in the Air Force, said it’d also be a way for the city to support the city’s diversity. According to the city’s 2016 demographic report, Koreans make up the third largest immigrant group in Aurora with nearly 2,300 residents.

“I was mostly surprised it hadn’t been brought to the table before,” Gruber said.

Gruber sees Korea Town being more than just great food and shopping — though there is plenty of that — but also a place for economic development, education and entrepreneurship that could create even more opportunity for Aurora, which calls Seongnam City in Korea a sister city.

Peter Lee, an insurance agent originally from Seoul whose business is located on South Havana Street and serves a number of Korean clients, said the community is excited about the possibility of creating Korea Town.

“This is the only place in Colorado that concentrates this many Korean businesses,” said Lee, who has lived near Aurora for nearly 30 year. “Everybody thinks they have to go to Denver for culture and that just isn’t the case.”

Lee and Karlyn Shorb, CEO of Aurora Sister Cities International, will both sit on a steering committee to explore the feasibility of creating the district.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the Korean community and we want to be supportive,” Shorb said. “We’ll obviously support whatever outcomes there are.”

Gruber, a former board president for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, said he and city leaders want to be mindful of other communities and businesses in the area, but added if the designation of Korea Town to the area would bring in more business, it could be good for everybody.

In August, Aurora will host the Sister Cities International annual conference. Gruber hinted that might be the perfect time to hold some kind of ceremony for Korea Town. That is if the idea becomes concrete.

Shorb said the conference is expected to bring in 500 to 700 people and more than 100 students for a youth summit. The mayors of each of Aurora’s sister cities have been invited to the three-day event.