RidgeGate Up Close
Jackie Millet, Mayor of the City of Lone Tree
On a late summer morning, we met up with Lone Tree’s Mayor, Jackie Millet (“it rhymes with filet,” she says), for a stroll along the city’s pedestrian bridge over Lincoln Avenue. Outdoor cafes were bustling with brunch diners, office workers were ferrying trays of coffee cups back to colleagues, and bikes and pedestrians zipped across the bridge as a steady stream of cars traveled beneath. With 12 years dedicated to the success of Lone Tree, Mayor Millet spoke to us about the future of the city. Below, learn her thoughts on what it takes to become a premier Colorado community, and why she believes the area has garnered such popularity in the last two decades.
You’re a civil engineer turned politician. Tell us about your journey to the Mayor’s office.
Mayor Millet: “There’s a statistic that women have to be asked to run for office three times before they say yes, and that is exactly what happened with me. When I first moved here 18 years ago, I had two young kids and was traveling a lot doing consulting work. Something had to give in our balance of family and work. Some of the city council members were very intrigued with my engineering background, I think because engineers are trained to take in inputs and design a path forward that makes sense. Finally, when the gentleman who would become our second mayor, Mayor Gunning, decided to run for office, he told me he thought I’d be a good candidate for his council seat in District 1. It was a two-year turn, and he said, ‘You can do anything for two years!’ It reminded me of doing wall squats at the gym when your instructor says, ‘You can do anything for 30 seconds!’ I thought two years would be a good test run, and frankly…that was 12 years ago. I served eight years on city council and am now in my fourth year as Mayor.”
As Mayor, what are some of the stats about Lone Tree that you like to tout?
Mayor Millet: “Lone Tree is just under 10 square miles. Our residential population is just about 15,000 and our daytime population is about 30,000, which really speaks to the boom in employment in the area. We have the Sky Ridge medical campus, the Charles Schwab campus and Park Meadows Retail Resort all located here. Kiewit Construction is also in the process of building their regional headquarters in Lone Tree.”
What do you attribute Lone Tree’s popularity to when it comes to economic development?
Mayor Millet: “I think it’s because Lone Tree is ideally situated. It’s easy to access many other places, while also being a destination ourselves. Having five light rail stations in a community our size is pretty unique. We’ve done great work with amenities like Lone Tree Link on Demand — our on-demand shuttle service within the city. We also have great walkability, our bike trails are amazing, and we continue to improve the bike/pedestrian access because the community demands it. We’ve always tried to be proactive when it comes to transportation, and walkability is an expectation. We consider ourselves a premier Colorado community, which means we need to provide all modes of transportation.”
RidgeGate is a master-planned community located within the city of Lone Tree. How has RidgeGate contributed to the broader context of the city?
“I think RidgeGate really allowed Lone Tree to truly become a ‘live, work, play’ community. Prior to the annexation and development of RidgeGate, we were a beautiful, but traditional, outer ring suburb. Having these 5,000 acres to envision a city has really allowed us to become a destination — not just in retail — but in employment, recreation, and arts and culture. We’ve even added a historic anchor – Schweiger Ranch — that’s now accessible by light rail. The Schweigers came out here for opportunity and prosperity, and I think that’s the same thing people come to Lone Tree for today.”
How has the City worked to ensure that RidgeGate doesn’t become an island within Lone Tree?
Mayor Millet: “When the voters of the City of Lone Tree chose to annex the area of land that is now RidgeGate, it was with the intention that this would enhance and complement what was already happening in Lone Tree. For a while, however, we were missing a physical connection across Lincoln Avenue, and this problem was recognized very early on by City Council. Various sites were reviewed for roughly two decades, and the location where we are now was the smartest option. This pedestrian bridge connects the rapidly growing neighborhood of the west side of RidgeGate with one of the largest residential HOAs, Heritage Hills. On the RidgeGate side we have the recreation center, bluff trails, library and arts center, Cabela’s… and then on the north we have schools, golf courses, tennis courts, more great shopping — and grocery stores and dining options on both sides.”
You just referenced the west side of RidgeGate. Is there an east RidgeGate?
Mayor Millet: “Yes, there will be! There are about 3,000 acres on the east side of I-25, south of Lincoln Avenue, that will become RidgeGate East. This area is going to be anchored by two dedicated light rail stations and a 440-acre downtown created around the City Center station. We will also have three residential villages that radiate out from the RidgeGate Station.”
So as RidgeGate expands to the east of I-25, how will the City maintain a physical connection across I-25?
Mayor Millet: “We recently added a light rail connection to the east side of RidgeGate which crosses over I-25, and we are also going to have bike and pedestrian access there as well. I should also note that the recreational connection created by the expansion of the East-West Regional Trail is important, because it will eventually give the people in Lone Tree direct access to the Colorado Trail.
Again, I think all of this is an example of the proactiveness in our planning of transportation and infrastructure with respect to greenfield development. When we look at the expansion of our transportation system, we look at complete expansion. I like to say we always choose Option E for ‘all of the above!’
Let’s end with a more personal question. What book, or books, are sitting on Mayor Millet’s nightstand?
Mayor Millet: “Well, the Bible and ‘Why I Love Being Catholic’ are always there. I also just finished ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro and began ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman.”