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Central Park development in Highlands Ranch shaping up to have healthy living theme

Doors are opening in the last frontier for ground-up retail development in Highlands Ranch in the shadow of the six-story UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital near Lucent Boulevard and C-470. 

So far, many of the confirmed tenants are health- and wellness-oriented — apparently by accident rather than design.

“We didn’t seek it out, but we were pleased to see it happen,” said Peter Culshaw, executive vice president of Shea Properties, the development corporation behind Highlands Ranch. “We’ve been stunned at the demand we’ve seen so far for these types of uses.”

The 100-acre Central Park development will include more than 250 apartments, 200 single-family homes, the UCHealth extension campus and an assortment of shops, restaurants and fitness studios. 

All of the retail shops are expected to open by summer, Culshaw said, including Orangetheory Fitness, Mad Greens, Zoe’s Kitchen, a cycling studio, Torchy’s Tacos, Old Chicago, Rock Bottom and other restaurants. Culshaw expects to lock in two more international tenants. 

Sixty percent of the center is leased, he said, and agreements are underway on nearly 25 percent more.  

“I’m giddy with excitement because it’s like a blank canvas and we’ve been able to script a world-class (campus) out of it,” Culshaw said. “It’s really the last opportunity to build really cool, mixed-used development in Highlands Ranch.”

The $315 million UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital is slated to open in the first half of 2019, UCHealth spokeswoman Paula Freund said. It will include an emergency department, birthing wing and a medical office building that includes a cancer center offering radiation and oncology treatment.

“The interesting thing about this hospital is that we’re going to have specialists and sub-specialists from the university (Anschutz Medical campus in Aurora) come down and work out of there,” Freund said. “That community will get more advanced care close to home and not worry about driving out to Aurora to get cancer care.”

The hospital will create 400 permanent jobs, and 500 to 600 construction jobs. 

So far, the only Central Park business open to the public is Barre3, a barre fitness studio franchise at 1493 Park Central Drive. Almost as soon as owner Britney Palmer opened the doors Sept. 14, south metro residents flooded in.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” Palmer said. “We have had some constraints with people trying to find us because we do look like a construction site still, but the two entrances are open, the sign is up on our building, and once they find it, they’re in and their hooked.”

More than 500 people walked through the doors of the one-room studio during the opening weekend, she said, and she expects that number will increase as more nearby businesses open.

“Almost everything opening here is a perfect complement to us,” Palmer said. “Yes, there are a lot of fitness uses, but Barre3 is a high-cardio, deep muscle burn and mind/body connection. It’s very different from anything else.”

The Highlands Ranch Community Association, which typically manages recreational opportunities in the metro district, is building a 3-acre community park in the middle of the development. It will be called Central Park.

A large, chopstick-shaped structure (an emergency services communication tower) marks the heart of the future park. Lights in a band around the tower will change color every hour.

“It’s going to a really cool park because it’s very different from the rest of the parks that we have here in Highlands Ranch, ” said Carrie Ward, parks, recreation and open space director for the Highlands Ranch Community Association. “It’s going to have a permanent maze built out of tall, ornamental grasses and there will be a discovery prize at the center of it. There’s nothing else like that anywhere here.”

The association is installing slack line poles and constructing a large beer garden that will hold more than 200 people and be available for rent. The park should open next summer, Ward said. 

“We’re excited for the park to open,” Palmer said. “We’ll probably be doing classes out there in the park next year. We really love the development and plan to soak up everything it has to offer.”

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