Lone Tree began as a small community of about a square mile when it was incorporated in 1995. It wouldn’t stay that small for long.
In August 2000, Lone Tree voters approved annexation of the 3,500-acre RidgeGate property.
“It came to our attention that Highlands Ranch wanted it,” said Jack Hidahl, city manager at the time. “We saw a map that had (Highlands Ranch) going all the way east to I-25.”
The property was already zoned for development under county jurisdiction and would likely be developed. So, the city felt it should do what it could to help shape the area for the public good.
Lone Tree plans to use the land for public facilities, including a new recreation center, police and fire stations, a city hall, library, trails, parks and open space, plus land for a future city center that will be located on the east side of Interstate 25 and south of Lincoln Avenue. It also is the site of a growing housing development, one that will help push the city of just under 13,000 people to a population of more than 30,000 over the next 20 years.
The RidgeGate annexation was just one in a series of city-defining moves over the next decade-plus.
Sky Ridge Medical Center was constructed in 2003 and brought emergency medical care to residents of the city and the surrounding area.
In 2004, Lone Tree started its own police department and ended its contract agreement with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
In November 2006, the light rail stations at Lincoln Avenue and County Line Road opened.
Then, in January 2007, Park Meadows mall, which opened in 1996, was annexed into Lone Tree.
By bringing the mall into the city, Lone Tree would generate millions more in sales tax revenue. It’s a partnership that would prove mutually beneficial.
“I think Lone Tree is the best city in the world to have a property in,” said Pam Schenck-Kelly, Park Meadows’ general manager. “The city is progressive, yet hometown friendly.”
In 2011, the $23 million Lone Tree Arts Center opened.
In May 2013, Charles Schwab broke ground on its $230 million Lone Tree facilities located on a 57-acre site at Lincoln Avenue and Park Meadows Drive. The campus has space to house as many as 5,000 employees and has already brought thousands of jobs to the area.
Also in 2013, Kaiser Permanente opened a six-story, 275,000-square-foot multi-specialty building across Park Meadows Drive.
As buildings rose, so have revenues. Lone Tree’s annual revenue was just $6,761 in 1995. It has grown to $40 million so far in 2015.
And while the city is widely known for its retail establishments and business climate, people also are willing to pay a pretty penny to live in Lone Tree. The median sale price for a single-family home is $705,000.
Current Mayor Jim Gunning moved to the Denver area in 1995 for his job as a pilot with United Airlines. He moved to Lone Tree in 1997 and was elected to council for the first time in 2006 before being elected mayor in 2008.
He cites the annexations of RidgeGate and Park Meadows and the development of light rail as the defining moments in the city’s history — so far.
“The city is still really young,” Gunning said. “It’s 20 years old, and it’s going through different phases of maturity.”