Entertainment District vision unfurled

Land planners recommend walkways, updating, financial buy-in

The Lone Tree entertainment district southeast of Yosemite along Park Meadows Drive offers businesses including a movie theater, Mexican, Indian, Japanese and American restaurants, indoor sky diving, bowling, laser tag and a cigar lounge. The city hopes to make the area more inviting.
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The area now known as Lone Tree’s Entertainment District would boast a promenade-style walkway with fountains, play areas and greenery designed to link businesses and tempt visitors into not just lingering, but making it a destination point.

A redesigned Park Meadows Drive, the thoroughfare that serves it, likewise would prompt drivers to slow down, look around and pull into the area to explore all the area has to offer.

That’s the future envisioned by land planners and outlined during Lone Tree City Council’s Dec. 3 meeting.

The detailed presentation from the Urban Land Institute left council members and several business owners in attendance feeling optimistic.

“We have good bones in the Entertainment District, and a great opportunity,” said Ken Marsh, owner of the Bridge Centers building that houses Panera Bread. “We’d like to do something that will lift the Entertainment District and lighten it up.”

The commercial area southeast of Yosemite along Park Meadows Drive offers a broad menu of fun, including a movie theater, Mexican, Indian, Japanese and American restaurants, indoor sky diving, bowling, laser tag and a cigar lounge.

But city officials who have long pondered solutions for it worry it’s tough to find, hard to access and tricky to navigate.

“Our short answer is the concept of an entertainment district should not be maintained,” said retail architect John Ward, pointing to medical facilities, apartment complexes, hotels and office buildings that abut the businesses. “That is a neighborhood.”

As such, planners recommend creating a new name for the area, then branding it with monument signs and marketing material.

Separations between businesses and large paved parking lots discourage walking, critics have said, and the businesses are arranged so that some are tucked almost out of sight behind others. A recommended plaza and walkway would create a pedestrian link among those businesses north of Park Meadows Drive from Yosemite Street to the movie theater.

“It should be a very pedestrian, warm, wonderful place to be,” Ward said, “a place you want to take your kids, a place where you want to have a drink before the movie.”

Park Meadows Drive could be redesigned with bicycle lanes, broader sidewalks and traffic calming devices.

A trail on the street’s south side that winds through a drainage also could be significantly enhanced to becomes its own draw and encourage more pedestrian access.

But for any of it to happen, ULI said the city must take the lead and bring the district’s 40-plus property owners together. All of them, planners said, must buy into the vision to ensure its success.

“It’s going to take a financial investment on behalf of everyone,” Ward said.

City leaders now are considering their next step.

“We have a lot to consider,” Councilmember Susan Squyer said. “I think we owe it to our citizens to make that a really attractive place.”

Lone Tree paid ULI $20,000 for the study. ULI is an international nonprofit that brings together teams of experts to study and advise communities on responsible, sustainable land use.