What once was a giant parcel of untouched land in northwest Highlands Ranch is now a large-scale construction site.
Central Park — a mixed-use project south of Plaza Drive and east of Lucent Boulevard — is making headway in the new year.
The 100-acre development, owned by Shea Properties, is expected to include 200 single-family homes, a six-story UCHealth hospital, a regional park, a communication tower for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and retail, recreation and commercial buildings.
The project broke ground inearly 2016 but the timeline for completion is unknown. Shea Properties did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Douglas County is in the final stages of approving detailed site plans for several parcels of the project, including the 72-bed hospital that will sit on the corner of Lucent Boulevard and Town Center Drive, a retail complex, park and homes.
The county has approved a location and extent plan — a statute that requires the planning commission to review plans for the construction of any road, park, or other publicly or privately owned space — for the sheriff’s communication tower, which will be the center point of the regional park.
“The central park feature is really an interesting component that gives the area a focal point,” said Jeannette Bare, planning manager of the Douglas County Planning Services Department of Community Development. “It’s exciting.”
In October, the county approved the final plat of the residential subdivision, which is in partnership with Sage Design Group. Plans show 25 acres of rows of houses with 29-foot wide alleys that access rear garages, according to Douglas County documents. About four acres will be reserved for sidewalks and open space.
The property where the houses will be built faces Barrons Boulevard and sits southeast of the SSG Chris Falkel Drive and Bluepoint Road intersection. It’s across from STEM School and Academy and several businesses, including BackCountry CrossFit and Waterworks Aquatics.
Penny Eucker, director of STEM School and Academy, said she looks forward to having single-family homes across Barrons Boulevard, a two-way street that separates the school from the development.
“I’m really excited that it’s going to be close and available,” Eucker said.
Eucker said she is confident that Shea Properties is keeping students — about 1,600 in grades K-12 — and the public safe during construction.
“The construction area is fenced and they have flagmen for any entrance/exit of heavy machinery,” she said in an email correspondence. “Shea is sensitive to being next to a school.”
A well and water line owned by Centennial Water and Sanitation District will remain in place on the property, as will a gas line owned by Xcel Energy.
Other surrounding businesses look forward to the growth, but some are concerned with traffic. County engineers have reviewed a traffic analysis. Additional traffic signals will be added on Lucent Boulevard, Town Center Drive and Plaza Drive.
Teresa Omalley, manager of Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center, north of the development on Plaza Drive, commented on the amount of traffic she currently sees.
“It will add to traffic,” she said, “in the sense that people use our parking lot to cut through from Barrons Boulevard to Plaza Drive.”
But Panorma has dealt with construction before, she said. Its other location in Golden recently had a nursing facility built next door.
“I know it will add to our business,” she said of the Central Park development.
The namesake of the development, the regional park, will encompass about three acres. Plans call for an outdoor gathering space, an amphitheater, restrooms and walking trails in what Bare called a “labyrinth style.”
“I think it’s intended to be a central focal area for some of the uses surrounding the park,” Bare said. “The plan is nearly complete so they (Shea Properties) are in a position to start the park in the near future.”
At the center of the park will stand a sheriff’s communication tower.
The tower will cost about $2 million and the entire communication network project — which includes upgrading the system and the addition of three more towers — will cost more than $13 million.
The Emergency Telephone Authority — the governing authority for emergency calls in Douglas County — will fund $3 million, according to Tim Moore, administrative services chief deputy with the sheriff’s office. The county has approved the remaining money from the Justice Center Use and Sales Tax.
In an interview last March, Moore said the Highlands Ranch location is essential because it is the most populated region in northern Douglas County. As long as the tower can transmit to adjacent cell towers in northern Douglas County, there will be 325 percent more coverage in the county’s most populated areas, he said.
The county approved the 150-foot cell tower last July and construction is expected to begin this summer.
“It has a unique design,” Bare said, “and will not appear as a typical tower, having some special design features and colors.”
Retail and commercial space
At the corner of Lucent Boulevard and Plaza Drive, there will be 70 acres of retail and commercial buildings.
“We will kick off this development with a unique restaurant and specialty retail village at the northwest corner of the site,” Peter Culshaw, executive vice president of Shea Properties, said in a news release in May. “Unlike other neighborhood centers within the metro area, this will be on a more intimate scale than most.”
Shea Properties has proposed an overall site plan for nine separate retail and commercial buildings and is currently finalizing plans for three, according to Bare.
“They should be approved in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “The site is planned and the landscaping and parking.”
Bare said she is not aware of what businesses will be included. The decor of the development is expected have stone, glass and metal.
“It’s more of a modern look, cleaner,” Bare said.
Across from the retail space, on the corner of Lucent Boulevard and Town Center Drive, will be a 470,817-square-foot hospital. UCHealth plans to open the $315 million facility in 2018.
The six-story hospital will have 72 inpatient beds, an emergency room, intensive care unit, operating rooms and advanced cardiac services, according to a news release from UCHealth. The organization is a health system comprising the University of Colorado Hospital, Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies and Colorado Health Medical Group.
The facility will occupy about a third of the Central Park development.
July 2015: The Douglas County Planning Commission unanimously approves zoning changes for the development.
August 2015: Douglas County commissioners approve the mixed-use development.
March 2016: Prairie dogs on the property were exterminated, a sign that ground could be moving soon.
May 2016: UCHealth announces plans for a $315 million, 33-acre hospital facility, expected to be complete 2018.
July 2016: Douglas County approves a sheriff’s office communication tower in the center of the regional park.
October 2016: Douglas County approves a final plat for 200 single-family homes.