Douglas County poised for more growth

25% expansion in 10 years outpaces metro area

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After a decade of growth that far outstrips the Denver metro area as a whole, Douglas County shows few signs of slowing down, driven by high levels of demand and new development in expanding towns like Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Parker.

There’s no doubt the entire metro area has grown at an unprecedented rate in the last decade. But Douglas County, home to smaller towns, scattered development and plentiful open space for years, was especially ripe for growth in 2010.

From 2010 to 2020, Douglas County’s population grew by 25% to just over 360,000 people, according to the most recent data available from the Colorado State Demography Office, compared with just under 16% growth for the entire metro area. And while the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 slowed migration, and growth, across the board, Douglas County still grew more than twice as fast as metro Denver over the course of the year.

Douglas County’s population grew 2.5% from 2019 to 2020, while the metro area expanded by less than 1%, according to the demography office’s data.

Since Douglas County’s population was much smaller to begin with, it makes sense that its rate of growth would be higher. But there’s no doubt that the county has seen an outsized share of development in recent years, and in 2021 it took significant steps toward continuing the trend heading into the new year.

In Lone Tree, for example, a long-anticipated expansion of RidgeGate Parkway paved the way — literally — to easier access and smoother traffic flows through the area, a crucial piece of the plan to implement phase two of the RidgeGate master-planned development. Additionally in 2021, Shea Homes made its first of five land purchases that will allow it to build homes on 185 acres at RidgeGate.

Castle Rock has also made big moves that are poised to pay dividends as the retail-heavy town persists on its path to greater diversity of industry, more primary employment and good jobs closer to home for its growing number of residents.

With projects like The Meadows residential development underway and large mixed-use developments like Dawson Trails moving through the planning stages, Castle Rock is ready to keep its growth spurt going, although keeping the expansion going at a measured, reasonable pace is the goal for the economic development team there.

“Healthy is the key word,” said Frank Gray, CEO of the Castle Rock Economic Development Council. “You want to see nice, healthy growth. Growth is going to happen in Castle Rock either way. The entitlements are there. So, you want to create an environment where you can get to the highest and best use, and create jobs for Castle Rock residents and places where people want to live and work.”

Retail and dining, two industries that have historically been Castle Rock’s bread and butter, were hard hit by the pandemic, but the area’s draw has kept business running, Gray said.

“Castle Rock has been on fire, even through the pandemic,” he said.

Like Lone Tree, new infrastructure projects will similarly help Castle Rock continue to pursue its goals going forward.

“Without key infrastructure, nothing really moves forward,” Gray said.

Even the unincorporated parts of Douglas County are contributing to the surge in population. Sterling Ranch, which began new home construction in 2016 after two years of planning and infrastructure work, plus about a decade of legal contention, in July 2021 announced the opening of its third distinct neighborhood, called Prospect Village, within the behemoth site in the northwest corner of the county.

Sterling Ranch is a long-term development play, with full build-out expected to take at least two decades. But it and many other residential developments have their work cut out for them trying to keep pace with the hunger for homes in Douglas County.

The number of households in the county jumped by 27% to just under 131,000 in the 10 years leading up to 2020, according to the demographer’s data, compared with a 15% increase across the metro area, and local residential real estate brokers say that demand for homes in the county has only increased over the course of 2021.

Development in the county can only go so far, thanks to protections placed on the county’s ample open space, but with cities, towns and unincorporated developments all moving full-steam ahead with their growth plans, there is plenty of runway for the county’s continued expansion, even beyond what it’s seen so far.

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