HCA Healthcare
April 03, 2019

SOURCE: The Denver Post

Work continues on the RidgeGate Parkway light rail stop at the end of the line on Aug. 22, 2018 in Lone Tree. Lone Tree master developer Coventry Development has announced plans to build 350 housing units near the light rail stop.

The anonymous family that owns the roughly six square miles of land in southern Lone Tree known as RidgeGate are a patient bunch.

They bought the property in 1972, 23 years before the city of Lone Tree incorporated. RidgeGate didn’t annex into the city until 2000. Coventry Development Corp., the company that represents the family’s interests here in the states, sold its first piece of property in 2001. That became Sky Ridge Medical Center, a primary employer and cornerstone for all development that has followed in RidgeGate on the west side of Interstate 25.

“That’s been a real advantage for us,” Keith Simon, Coventry’s vice president and director of development, said of his employers’ unhurried approach, “to wait until something was right.”

Next month, the longest of the family’s long plays will pay off when RTD’s 2.3-mile Southeast Rail Extension starts carrying E, F and R light rail trains to three new stops at the far southern end of the transit authority’s rail system. One of the extension’s three stops will serve Sky Ridge on the west side of I-25. The other two will be on the east side of the highway, smack in the middle of the mostly vacant land owned by Coventry.

The land company and Lone Tree officials for years have been touting the opportunity that two light rail stops on virgin soil presents, but this week Coventry went a step further, releasing some more specific figures and details around its vision for the rest of RidgeGate. Here are some highlights:

  • Up to 12 million square feet of office, retail and medical space
  • As many as 10,000 new houses, condos, townhouses and apartments
  • A trio of district residential “villages”
  • More than 600 acres of parks, trails and wildlife habitat
  • 145 acres of land dedicated to schools and civic facilities, including a new civic center for Lone Tree
  • Around the first station on the east side of the highway, a 400-acre “urban core” project is planned with walkable blocks of retail and housing that will serve as the city’s “downtown.”

The vision above could take decades to achieve but Simon expects announcements around the first slate of projects — a trio of housing developments including one dedicated to low-income renters — to be announced in the coming months. He is hoping for the first groundbreaking early next year.

“The east side is going to be a little different. We’re going to start with residential rooftops,” he said. “There is strong demand.”

In the meantime, the focus will be on widening RidgeGate Parkway, the main arterial road through the area, from two lanes to six, a $25 million project funded in part by CDOT and Douglas County, Simon said.

As for transit users who see fit to ride until the end of the line, Ken Mihalik, the RTD board member who represents Lone Tree and surrounding areas, said they should be prepared to be underwhelmed.

“I think it’s going to raise a few eyebrows when people see the state of the area that these new stations are in,” Mihalik said. “The Lone Tree City Center Station is an optimistic or a least a forward-looking name for that.”

At a time when many around the metro area are voicing their displeasure with RTD and the delays around the development of its FasTracks rail system, it may come across as bad optics to build out rail stops in uninhabited areas.

But Mihalik is quick to note that the southeast corridor is RTD’s most popular light rail wing, trailing only the commuter trains that go out to Denver International Airport in ridership. The new stations, including a large new parking structure on the east side of the highway, will provide another 1,300 parking spots for riders from across the south metro area who want to ditch their cars in favor of a train.

It certainly helped, Mihalik said, that the land the extension passes through had a single owner — Coventry– that actively courted RTD to build there. Lone Tree and other local shareholders contributed $25 million to the project’s $238 million final tab, helping draw down $92 million in federal funding.

“Certainly other areas are concerned about the timing of what they have been promised but I think the Lone Tree example, with the level of local contribution and the willingness of the local involved parties, very well could be the model for how other projects get funded and built,” he said.