Lone Tree shines in state of city address

Mayor highlights ongoing, future growth at luncheon

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Mayor Jim Gunning had ample reason to smile during Lone Tree’s annual State of the City address May 9. The 2013 address was held one day before the Charles Schwab corporate campus groundbreaking ceremony and three months from Cabela’s targeted Aug. 15 grand opening.

The two high-profile companies are among the brightest feathers in the city’s increasingly showy economic cap. Gunning highlighted them among a long list of accomplishments during an upbeat lunch presentation to about 160 south metro residents and business representatives.

“For me, it’s a very humbling experience to get up and talk about the city,” Gunning said, crediting Douglas County government, RidgeGate’s developers, Park Meadows Metro District and others for their help in the young city’s evolution.

Gunning’s presentation included not only 2013 headline-makers like Schwab, but plans for the city’s likely future. At the top of that list is the proposed 2.2-mile extension of the light rail line from its current stopping point at Lincoln Avenue to RidgeGate Parkway.

“Light rail couldn’t be more important to the region or Lone Tree,” Gunning said. “The kinds of businesses that will come with the expansion are businesses like Charles Schwab.”

With the three additional stations — at Sky Ridge Medical Center, the future Lone Tree City Center east of Interstate 25 and RidgeGate Parkway — will come 10 to 12 million square feet of commercial development and 3,500 residential units with a total valuation of $725 million.

Gunning and others are negotiating for a public/private partnership to make the extension happen sooner than the Regional Transportation District’s budget allows.

“I believe Lone Tree has put together a financial deal we’ll present to RTD soon,” he said. “We’re very close.”

The planned extension was among the reasons Charles Schwab cited in its decision to build a 52-acre corporate campus in the city. The campus will take shape during two phases of construction, bringing 3,130 jobs to Lone Tree.

Cabela’s is in the process of hiring about 200 people for its 110,000-square-foot Lone Tree store, one of two it plans to open in the Denver metro area on Aug. 15. The Thornton Cabela’s will measure about 80,000 square feet.

“Let me remind everybody, ours is the bigger store,” Gunning said. “I think there will be a traffic jam out there for a while.”

Gunning applauded the 20-month-old Lone Tree Arts Center for its runaway success. It so far has hosted 332 performances and 90,000 visitors.

With 1,250 new and under-construction apartments, townhomes and single-family homes in Lone Tree, residential also is booming, he said, a fact supported by rising property values.

“It’s an indication of how things are going in the region, though it is kind of painful when you’re writing the check,” he said.

Gunning touched on the 2012 residents’ survey, which showed satisfaction rates above the national average. A survey of business owners had similarly sunny results.

“In the end, it’s a great day to be in Lone Tree,” he said, quoting a city slogan coined by former mayor Jack Boyle.