Lone Tree's RidgeGate

The vision: a place to live, work and play

RidgeGate fulfilling promise of a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use community

Posted 5/31/17

After looking at homes throughout Douglas County, Jessica Crawley and her family moved in 2016 into a townhome off RidgeGate Parkway in Lone Tree.

“We like the location,” Crawley said. “There are a lot of parks and we just had a baby. We …

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Lone Tree's RidgeGate

The vision: a place to live, work and play

RidgeGate fulfilling promise of a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use community

Posted

After looking at homes throughout Douglas County, Jessica Crawley and her family moved in 2016 into a townhome off RidgeGate Parkway in Lone Tree.

“We like the location,” Crawley said. “There are a lot of parks and we just had a baby. We like that we can walk to restaurants.”

The Crawley family isn’t alone in liking the suburban community that promises a 21st-century urban feel where work, play and family life are easily intertwined.

Some 5,000 people — more than a third of the city’s 13,500 residents — live in Lone Tree’s RidgeGate community, roughly 5 1/2 square miles that straddle Interstate 25, bounded by Lincoln Avenue on the north and spilling south off a winding RidgeGate Parkway.

Its 3,500 acres, which comprise half of Lone Tree’s land, contain 3 million square feet of commercial office space, including the sprawling Charles Schwab complex and Sky Ridge Medical Center, and 500,000 square feet of retail space, including 15 restaurants, Target, Cabela’s and Sprouts. Ten construction projects are underway; 6,000 people work each day within its boundaries.

And RidgeGate is the only community in the Denver metro area with three light rail stations being built, connecting the area to downtown Denver and Denver International Airport. As the area adds residents and businesses, the additional public transportation could help temper the impact of rising traffic at I-25 and Lincoln, already one of the most heavily congested intersections in the south metro area.

By all accounts, the booming area is fulfilling the expectations of its developers and city officials.

“We have always operated with the same vision,” Kelly First, Lone Tree’s community development director, said of Coventry Development Corp., RidgeGate’s developer. “We both want a mixed-use, vibrant and walkable place for the community.”

How it all began

When Lone Tree incorporated in November 1995, the city boundaries fell south of County Line Road, west of Yosemite Streetand north of Lincoln Avenue. Park Meadows mall was annexed in 2006, and just down the road, a budding entertainment district — restaurants and retail that line Yosemite from Park Meadows Drive and C-470 — was taking shape.

The RidgeGate land, also owned by Coventry, sat in unincorporated Douglas County. Lone Tree, at the company’s request, annexed the land in 2000.

“Annexation into Lone Tree offered the best alignment with our goals to create a more urban, mixed-use community built for the 21st century,” said Keith Simon, Coventry’s executive vice president and director of development, in an email correspondence. The city “has exceeded our expectations as an ideal community development partner.”

RidgeGate is divided in two sections: RidgeGate East, almost four square miles on the east side of I-25, and RidgeGate West Village, almost two square miles west of I-25 and south of Lincoln Avenue. Most of the development over the past 17 years has occurred in the West Village, which boasts 2,300 residential units in 15 neighborhoods, two hotels, five parks and 20 miles of open space along with the millions of square feet in commercial, office and retail space.

“Residential, commercial and retail are encouraged to be near each other,” First said, “so people have the opportunity to live, work and shop in the same area and to, hopefully, get out of their cars.”

The developer also donated 31 acres of land for civic facilities, which is where Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree Library and Lone Tree Recreation Center have been built. The state-of-the-art library and art center are across from each other on Commons Street; the recreation center is on RidgeGate Circle in Prairie Sky Park. The value of these donated properties altogether, Simon said, is $10 million.

A magnet for business

Businesses see RidgeGate as a prime place to locate.

The largest retail businesses are Target, Sprouts and Cabela’s. Target, at RidgeGate Parkway and Lincoln, and Sprouts, located just across Commons Street from the art center, which is next door to the library, are in what is called Lincoln Commons. The area forms a nucleus of art, education and retail. The Cabela’shunting and camping retail store perches on the ridge just off of RidgeGate Parkway, visible from I-25.

Charles Schwab, the largest private-sector employer in Douglas County, built its new location in 2014 at Lincoln and Park Meadows Boulevard. Sky Ridge Medical Center opened in 2003. These two businesses alone support 10,700 jobs and add $1.5 billion a year to the metro Denver economy, according to Simon.

RidgeGate alone generated $3.6 million in sales tax, retail use tax, lodging tax and construction use tax for Lone Tree in 2016, said Kristin Baumgartner, assistant city manager and finance director for Lone Tree.

For Schwab, the move into Lone Tree from three separate leased offices in metro Denver allowed the company to consolidate into one facility and gave it “the flexibility to allow for continued organic growth,” said Kent Clark, senior vice president at Charles Schwab.

“The location and the characteristics of the site itself, as well as the commitment to community partnership by RidgeGate, made it a perfect location for a Schwab campus,” Clark said. “It’s a beautiful campus with lots of amenities, and our employees really like working here.”

Many often walk to nearby restaurants in the Lincoln Commons area, which includes Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Firehouse Subs and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

“We have a lot of regulars, especially during our lunch rush,” said Shane Marquardt, 28, a shift leader at Firehouse Subs. “There are a lot of people who walk to this location.”

More housing needed for seniors

About one-third of RidgeGate’s land — 1,200 acres — is permanently dedicated to open space, parks, trails and preserved land. Bluffs Regional Park trails, the Willow Creek trail and the East-West trail system are included in the area.

“You don’t have to leave Lone Tree to experience everything that Colorado has to offer,” Mayor Jackie Millet said. “You can really get out into protected space on a trail. Having a tie to land that is so accessible to people is one of the reasons residents love Colorado. The love for the outdoors is ingrained in people.”

But like the rest of Lone Tree, city officials point to a lack of enough condominium and housing options for the city’s growing senior population.

“The fundamental premise behind RidgeGate from the beginning is to understand that demographics change,” First said. “Everyone is talking about millennials. There is a huge aging population everywhere and (Lone Tree) is going to feel that pretty acutely. We are trying to find an entire balance for everyone, from kids to millennials to the workforce and accommodating seniors.”

In Douglas County from 2010 to 2015, the population of people over the age of 60 increased 46 percent, while the general population in the county rose 16 percent, according to a Douglas County Demographic Survey published in March.

About 34 percent of Lone Tree’s population is over the age of 50.

And in the 2016 Lone Tree resident survey, respondents identified the need for more senior activities and affordable senior housing among the top 15 categories of improvements the city needs.

The opening of MorningStar Senior Living at RidgeGate in January is a great start to meeting the future needs of an aging population, First said, but she would like to see more senior living developed.

Morningstar is a high-end senior living community that provides independent living, assisted living and memory care to members in its 224 units. Since opening in January, 116 units have become occupied, putting the facility at 55 percent capacity. It is within walking distance to the library, arts center and Lincoln Commons shopping center.

“I think what is missing from RidgeGate is what is missing from the city in general, which is more condominium choices and senior housing,” First said.

Simon said he hopes more condominiums are built in RidgeGate West.

“We all want to see more condos built,” said Simon, notingthat the lack of construction-defects reform has largely curtailed such development in recent years. “They haven’t been built in the last five to 10 years in Denver because of litigation matters.”

What lies ahead

Lone Tree officials expect the city’s population to surpass 30,000 people — more than double the current number of residents — within the next 20 years. The bulk of that growth will come from RidgeGate.

The West Village, with 10 construction projects underway, is set for completion in 2018. Only six parcels remain available for development. Simon is hoping for more mixed-use office sites.

“One of the things that is missing in RidgeGate is an office building that is a multi-tenant office building,” Simon said. “It adds a little more diversity to the community — having smaller companies in an office building.”

Nearly 9,500 homes are planned at buildout for West Village. And the Southeast Light Rail Extension, a $233.1 million project extending the light rail 2.3 miles fromthe station just northwest of Lincoln Avenue and I-25 will add three new stops in RidgeGate — in the West Village near Charles Schwab and two in RidgeGate East.

RidgeGate East, however, won’t be completed for another 40 years, Simon said.

“Could you do it faster? You probably could,” he said. “But we would rather take our time and do it right. We are a little more selective, getting higher-quality users.”

Simon was not ready to comment specifically on development for the east area, but he did mention a city center would be important, along with possibly a new library and fire station. Land also has been set aside to donate for a middle and high school. Simon foresees the area could need two elementary schools.

“We are not generating a lot of school-age population,” Simon said. “We have been populated with young people (without families) and the empty-nester side. Over here (RidgeGate East), we might get more families and school-aged kids. It just depends on who ends up buying the houses.”

Millet, who has lived in Lone Tree for16 years and witnessed the evolution of RidgeGate from a once-sprawling empty expanse, is confident the east side will be just as well-thought-out as the west side.

The original promise for quality growth in RidgeGate, she said, has resulted in a valuable space in Lone Tree.

“The growth that occurred attributed to the character and quality of the city,” Millet said. “It is a net gain.”

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