2010s were time of growth, identity for Lone Tree

A look back at how city changed over past decade

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/7/20

Lone Tree is still largely known throughout the Denver area as the home of the Park Meadows mall, which opened in 1995, when the city became a city. In the past 10 years, Lone Tree developed a …

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2010s were time of growth, identity for Lone Tree

A look back at how city changed over past decade

Posted

Lone Tree is still largely known throughout the Denver area as the home of the Park Meadows mall, which opened in 1995, when the city became a city. In the past 10 years, Lone Tree developed a stronger identity and became more than just a shopping destination.

Much of what Lone Tree is known for today might have looked different if it weren't for the May 2008 election, when voters approved two recreation and arts bond measures, 2A and 2B, to free up tax revenue for the two departments. The measures narrowly passed, paving the way for the city to improve its trail system, open two sets of tennis courts, renovate the Cook Creek Pool and begin to construct the Lone Tree Arts Center. Some municipalities had similar ballot measures that November but were unable to pass the measures as the Great Recession worsened.

Susan Squyer, a former Lone Tree planning commissioner and councilmember totaling 19 years of service, said it was the work done in that election that set the stage for the 2010s.

“When people look back, even if you didn't vote for recreation or arts, you're probably using both and your property values definitely benefited from those assets that put us on the map,” Squyer said. “I looked at (the arts center) as a Lone Tree amenity, and I never stopped to think what a regional draw it was going to be. That was one of the biggest surprises to me.”

In the course of the past 10 years, the city's relationship with South Suburban Parks and Recreation strengthened. A vocal group of citizens in the 2000s advocated leaving South Suburban, saying the city was getting shorted on parks maintenance and use, urging the city to form its own parks and recreation department.

“In 2010, I would've guessed we would have had our own parks department by the end of the decade,” said Seth Hoffman, Lone Tree's city manager.

The 2010s proved to be a decade of growth throughout the region, and Lone Tree became one of the major focal points of Douglas County's population surge.

“It was a little bedroom community that wanted to take their destiny in their own hands,” Squyer said.

The Lone Tree Arts Center is now best known for hosting sensory friendly shows — performances tailored specifically for sensitive groups and people with disabilities — which won the Rex Morgan Award from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

The RidgeGate Parkway interchange opened officially in 2008 as well, and by 2021 it will have expanded to six lanes in preparation of massive development on the east side of I-25.

In 2014, the city found a corporate partnership in Charles Schwab, which moved to Lone Tree that year with its roughly 4,000 employees. Kiewit, a major engineering and construction firm, followed suit and broke ground on its regional headquarters, promising 1,100 jobs at the edge of RidgeGate West. Kiewit has yet to open its doors, but is currently hiring for 200 positions.

Sky Ridge Medical Center opened in 2003 as the only hospital in Douglas County and grew to become one of the premier hospitals in the south metro area by the end of the 2010s. The promise of extending the Southeast Rail Line to RidgeGate Parkway also led the way for other new businesses like Cabela's and Target.

RidgeGate's crown jewel, the Leaf Pedestrian Bridge, opened in 2018, connecting the north and south ends of the city. The opening of the three new light rail stations in RidgeGate fulfilled promises made to Sky Ridge and Charles Schwab, a deciding factor for both of those businesses to move to Lone Tree.

The Douglas County Library opened across the street from MorningStar, a retired living facility, both of which opened in the past decade.

“We really evolved from an outer-ring Denver suburb to a complete community of our own with amenities commensurate with any premier Colorado community,” Mayor Jackie Millet said.

Local businesses like Monk and Mongoose Coffee, Kiddie Academy and the Lone Tree Brewing Company all got their start in the 2010s. In 2019, the city announced it will soon be home to the Denver area's first In-N-Out burger eatery, which is expected to open by 2021.

Lone Tree is in its 25th year since being incorporated. Its third mayor, Millet, is the third engineer to serve as mayor. Seth Hoffman took over for Jack Hidahl, the city's first city manager, in 2014.

“Building this culture of innovation we've worked on for the last five or six years has led to a lot of the national recognition we've enjoyed,” Hoffman said, pointing to the Link On Demand system, which grew from the Lone Tree Link Circulator in 2014 to a fully on-demand shuttle service in 2018.

It is difficult to resist thinking “what if” when considering the 2010s — for instance, if the city decided a minor league baseball stadium would have been a better fit for the property where Charles Schwab currently sits. The decisions made by the earliest councils, commissions and city staff were made with livability in mind — things like traffic and quality of life would certainly be impeded by a 5,000-seat stadium with 30-foot-tall light poles.

The 2010s saw Lone Tree emerge as a major player in a period of transformative growth throughout the region. In 2020, its adaptive traffic signal project to improve traffic flow on Yosemite Street, a multi-jurisdictional collaboration, will be fully operational.

“We have laid a foundation that is so strong,” Millet said. “If your history is representative of your future, then it will be exciting.”

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