At the heart of the RidgeGate community in Lone Tree is Charles Schwab, one of the nation's largest banking and brokerage firms. It's difficult to miss. The first building, five stories tall, gleams …
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• Based in San Francisco
• Founded in 1971
• 345 branches worldwide, including in Puerto Rico and London
• There are eight branches in Colorado: Lone Tree, Boulder, Frisco, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and three in Denver.
• Operates in financial investing, wealth management, banking and trading
• Handles more than $3 trillion in assets across almost 11 million active client brokerage accounts
At the heart of the RidgeGate community in Lone Tree is Charles Schwab, one of the nation's largest banking and brokerage firms.
It's difficult to miss. The first building, five stories tall, gleams proudly facing traffic on Lincoln Avenue, just west of Park Meadows Boulevard and a block west of I-25 at 9800 Schwab Way. The second one, just behind it, another five-story building, is open to the public with a cafeteria and lobby space featuring local art. The campus spans 650,000 square feet, almost the size of 14 football fields.
“We want to be more than an address in the community,” said Kent Clark, senior vice president of Schwab's Lone Tree campus.
Lone Tree became a new home for Schwab in 2014. Since then, the surrounding RidgeGate area has slowly grown alongside it into one of the city's most bustling neighborhoods.
Schwab has grown, too. The original two buildings were built in 2014 and a third was completed a year later on the campus' south side. In early July, it broke ground on a parking garage, which also will feature a new workout facility and a restaurant.
The RidgeGate area, which extends from Lincoln Avenue and Yosemite Street to the I-25 off ramp, will eventually be home to the city's downtown and myriad apartment complexes, townhomes, plazas, high-profile businesses and an extension to the RTD light rail system, which is expected to be completed within the first half of 2019. On July 17, city council passed a plan to bring in lower-cost housing for the neighborhood's east side. The full development of RidgeGate East, which extends south and east along Ridgegate across I-25, may not be completed for another 40 years.
While the vision for the future of RidgeGate shakes out over time, Schwab has staked its claim as Lone Tree's — and Douglas County's — largest private employer, with about 4,000 employees.
Schwab is one of the newest tenants to RidgeGate, a list that includes Sky Ridge Medical Center, Cabela's, Super Target, MorningStar Senior Living, a Douglas County library and the Lone Tree Arts Center.
“The real visible impact is the vibrancy it's brought to the region,” said Jeff Holwell, the city's director for economic development. “Very locally, the impact — the rooftop (gardens), the people it has brought to RidgeGate and the residential and retail growth around it — that has brought vibrancy to the RidgeGate development.”
This was all part of the plan — that is, the city's plan to develop RidgeGate since the area was annexed in 2000.
Schwab has been a key part in facilitating that plan. The firm was a key lobbying partner for the extension of the RTD light rail route for its E and F lines, keeping the commuting interests of namely Schwab employees in mind.
And Schwab's influence throughout the city has already played a major role in the city's future. Mayor Jackie Millet praised the firm for its involvement in the community and described the relationship between the city and the company as mutually beneficial.
“When we talk about trying to get transportation grants from the federal government to advance economic development and mobility in our communities, when you speak about that company and the presence of the company, it certainly raises the bar for our community with our federal legislators to look at moving up on the scale of prioritization,” Millet said.
A growing area
Longtime city resident Sharon Van Ramshorst remembers when most of Lone Tree was nothing but ranchland and a couple of I-25 exits people seldom used.
“When I moved here, it was out in the country,” she said. “There weren't any roads that ran through it. Yosemite (Street) ended at the waterfalls where the old library used to be. Antelope were on the RidgeGate property. You didn't drive by it even — except if you were on the freeway.”
Many Lone Tree residents feel the same as the former councilwoman about the city's growth in the past 20 years: excited, proud and welcome to the change.
“There have been a lot of changes,” Van Ramshorst said. “A lot of people see that as a positive. There are people who wish things stay the way they were."
But, she said, "for the most part (Schwab) has a positive impact.”
Lone Tree, incorporated in 1995, annexed RidgeGate in 2000 and Heritage Hills, northeast of Yosemite Street and Lincoln Avenue, in 2001. The latter has become a neighborhood of luxury homes, while the former is made up of various high-end townhomes and apartments.
It's not cheap to live in Lone Tree. The median price of single-family homes sold in the city between June 2017 and June of this year was $815,000, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. The median sales price for a home in the entire Denver metro area in June was much less, about $450,000, according to DMAR.
Holwell believes companies like Schwab help remedy the situation by providing higher wages so people can afford homes in Lone Tree.
As of January, Lone Tree's population was just under 15,000 people, a number that city officials estimate doubles during the work day with commuters and shoppers.
Holwell said no economic impact report on Schwab's reach in the city has been done yet, though he predicted that Schwab has had a hand in helping several businesses grow as well. Holwell said the city will likely conduct an economic impact report on Schwab at some point in the future.
And Van Ramshorst, like many of her fellow residents, sees Schwab as a welcome neighbor and a sign of the future.
“There's just naturally a lot more people coming and going. You see people walking to lunch, you see people walking down the street, you see people crossing the bridge,” Van Ramshorst said. “I consider them a fine neighbor and I have no issue with them being in the city. And I think more companies could follow.”
Part of the community
The community, for the most part, has embraced Schwab. In return, Schwab has invited the public to walk through its campus, eat at its cafeteria tables and recline on its lawns to enjoy a scenic view of the Leaf Bridge.
Clark said being closely involved with the community and giving back to it are crucial to achieving the firm's mission to help people with their financial investing and savings.
"A campus like this allows us to do that in a pretty robust way," Clark said.
When it opened, Schwab added its own welcome mat to its campus on the southbound side of I-25 — a sideways sign with the company's script-block logo reading upward, unmistakably pinning its 15-acre home in Lone Tree. When the Colorado Department of Transportation said the company needed a billboard permit for the off-premise advertisement, Schwab instead constructed a small office building adjacent to the sign, making the sign on-premise and allowing Schwab to keep it there for all south-bounders to see.
On Aug. 11, Schwab will host one of the city's two summer concerts at its amphitheater, which seats roughly 600, not including standing room, for the second time. The grassy, three-level amphitheater sits between the two original buildings, offering a view of the sun setting just behind the mountains to the west.
“As we look at this site in RidgeGate and have conversations with the City of Lone Tree,” Clark said, “we want to be a part of that community in different ways.”
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