City investing in commercial area

Council OKs consulting deal for Entertainment District

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Lone Tree is investing an additional $100,000 into its Entertainment District by hiring a consultant to define the area’s future. It’s a future that city leaders hope will include throngs of shoppers congregating at a revamped commercial center.

During its April 16 meeting, city council approved a contract with Boulder-based 505 Design, chosen from among 16 consulting teams that responded to a February request for proposal. The firm will work with business owners, tenants and area residents to create a vision and identify improvements for the area, anchored by the United Artists movie theater, that extends along Park Meadows Drive south of Yosemite Street.

“By the end of summer, we hope to have a vision and some projects identified,” said Steve Hebert, Lone Tree’s community development director. “If council, property owners and business owners indicate they want to move forward, the next phase would be figuring out who pays for what and how to go about it.”

If physical changes are recommended and financing secured, Hebert said construction could begin late this year.

“Realistically in 2014, but maybe late 2013,” he said. “Obviously if it’s a large capital improvement, it’s going to require some additional engineering and review, and might require planning commission and council review. There’s a whole menu of things that could come out of this.”

Lone Tree paid the Urban Land Institute $25,000 to do an initial study late last year. The international nonprofit uses teams of experts to advise communities on land use. Its December report envisioned a promenade-style walkway with fountains, play areas and greenery.

505 Design’s managing principal John Ward isn’t yet ready to paint such a detailed picture. That, he said, will be revealed by stakeholders who include not only business owners, managers and people who live in the area, but moviegoers, diners and other customers.

“We will start with smaller, individual groups,” Ward said. “You find common ground, things that all of a sudden build upon your story. We’re trying to figure out what the narrative idea is for the area, and how it relates to the other pieces of Lone Tree.

“I definitely think it’s an opportunity to really create a neighborhood. To me, it’s sort of a no-man’s-land now.”

505 Design will work with the city to identify focus groups, set and facilitate meetings, and develop a design strategy document, financing and implementation plan, among other steps. The city hopes the first part of the two-phase project will be done by fall, so it can plan its 2014 budget with Phase II in mind.

A public open house and council presentation of the plan tentatively is set for August.

The Entertainment District offers an array of activities, including a movie theater, indoor skydiving, bowling, laser tag, several restaurants and a cigar lounge. But critics say it’s tough to find, hard to access and tricky to navigate. Its design discourages walking, and the businesses are arranged so that some are difficult for passers-by to see.

Retailers in the area generally agree changes are in order.

“But individuals thinking about those things is not going to get us where we want to go,” Hebert said. “In order for it to be the most successful, we need as many property owners and business owners to agree upon: one, identification of the problem, and two, identification of the solution. We need to bring people together to have that conversation.”