With a population of more than 81,000 residents, it might be a stretch to
call a large master-planned community a neighborhood, but Highlands Ranch in
Douglas County has the consistent look, clear boundaries and community spirit
of a true neighborhood — but one that's the size of a city.
While outsiders may look askance at the sea of cookie-cutter rooftops seen
from the highway, a drive through the 22,000-acre community reveals much
more. Shea Homes purchased the community in 1997 under strict provisions to
devote more than 60 percent of the land to non-urban use including 30 miles
of trails, two 18-hole golf courses and a large wilderness preserve.
On what was once hunting grounds for Arapaho, Ute, and Cheyenne Indians,
neighbors now gather for annual Easter egg hunts, Independence Day fireworks
and a summer concert series.
Once a real 1930s ranch that still hosts the former cattle baron's storied
mansion, Highlands Ranch includes apartments and townhouses, as well as
commercial districts, and is expected to be built out by 2010.
Cost of Housing
A large house-to-lot ratio and a muted palette is typical of many of the
Small one-bedroom condos can be found in the low $100,000s, larger town
homes in the middle to upper $100,000s and low $200,000s. Single-family homes
of about 1,800 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths begin in the low
200,000s. Larger four and five bedroom homes are priced from the $500,000s up
to nearly $2 million for a 5,400 square-foot, four-bedroom, four-car garage,
six-bath house on a half acre.
The few rentals available start at $650 to $950 for a one-bedroom
Douglas County School District, among the fastest growing school districts in
the nation, has earned a good reputation serving Highlands Ranch with four
middle schools and four high schools and 18 elementary schools.
The Core Knowledge Charter School is one of several charter schools that exist
in the district. The nearly two dozen preschools include a special education
preschool that serves as a model training site for the state.
The signature diversion in the area, the Rocky Mountains, 10 miles and 20
minutes to the west via surface streets and freeway, offer an endless variety
of recreation all year round.
Highland Ranch Community Association offers activities at several
state-of-the-art recreation centers and during community events. Walkers,
hikers and anyone on non-motorized wheels can use the community trails.
Recreation center facilities include indoor running tracks, swimming pools and
climbing walls. For local sports Shea Stadium offers 3,000 seats.
Chatfield Reservoir, popular with boaters and fishing lovers, is nearby in the
Chatfield Lake State Recreation Area. The community also includes nearly a
dozen retail shopping centers.
Downtown Denver is about 12 miles or 30 minutes north on I-25. Interstate 25, which
runs on the east side of Highlands Ranch, takes commuters north to the Denver
Tech Center, four miles or 15 minutes away. Commuter traffic can get very congested.
State highway, C470, loops south of Denver to Highlands Ranch and in 10 miles or
15 minutes connects to Interstate 70, the major entrance to the Rockies west of
Denver. An eastbound toll road, E470, loops north to link with I-70 on the east
side of town and offers a 20-mile, 30-minute commute to Denver International Airport.
University Boulevard takes commuters and shoppers north for the 10-mile,
30-minute trip to the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping District and another three
miles and five minutes to downtown Denver.
The area's Regional Transportation District (RTD) "Ranch Rider" bus
serves the Highland Ranch community and has connections to Denver more than one
hour away by bus or by bus and a light-rail connection in Littleton.