Historic Loretto Heights campus sold for redevelopment in south Denver. What’s next?

The $16.5 million deal means big changes are in motion.

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

One of south Denver’s most recognizable landmarks has new owners.

Westside Investment Partners finalized its purchase of the 75-acre Loretto Heights campus on Tuesday, according to principal Andy Klein, ending years of questions about the fate of the former school near South Federal Boulevard and West Hampden Avenue.

“It happened,” Klein said after closing the deal.

The $16.5 million deal sets the stage for the potential redevelopment of the former school campus, but Klein has promised to preserve certain historic buildings.

“We are committed to preserving the administration building, the chapel, the cemetery — and we are evaluating the others,” Klein said. “We are going to have mixed uses. It’s going to be residential and commercial. Retail, restaurants, and hopefully a lot of gathering spaces. That’s the plan.”

Previously, Klein has described a commercial and retail focus along Federal Boulevard and an “urban feel.”

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  loretto heights; harvey park south; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;

The former Lortetto Heights campus in Harvey Park South, Nov. 2, 2017 (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The investors have been meeting with neighborhood representatives, historic preservationists and the city government. Klein expects to present a more detailed plan within the next couple months. Large-scale redevelopment of the campus likely would require approvals from the Denver City Council.

“It could take a year to get through the city,” Klein said. “You’ll see something maybe happen by the end of ’19.”

This represents the largest potential development for southwest Denver since the mid-1990s, according to Councilman Kevin Flynn.

“It’s a gorgeous, iconic site,” he said. “When people think of Council District 2, Loretto Heights is one of the things they think of.”

He’s looking forward to working with Westside on the project, he said. He’ll be pushing for the company to preserve the May Stanton Bonfils theater on the campus.

“Without finding an entity that can take it over, rehabilitate it, operate it, southwest Denver will lose a jewel of a cultural facility — a 1,000-seat theater that can’t be found in this part of town,” Flynn said. “I consider it an endangered building.”

The campus was founded in 1891 by Catholic nuns with the Sisters of Loretto mission. It also has been known as Loretto Heights Academy. Its previous owner, Colorado Heights University, announced in 2016 that it was closing the campus. The organization originally selected a different master developer for the site in 2017, but that deal fell through.

Westside entered negotiations soon afterward, closing the deal in just a few months. The company also is known for the 1,500-acre High Point development near Denver International Airport, among other projects.

Jim Gibson has been meeting with the developers to represent neighborhood interests. “For now, we feel really good. They’ve been very accessible, very open,” he said.

But Flynn also is concerned that the city’s planners aren’t ready to handle such a large project in his part of town. Southwest Denver doesn’t “really have in place already much of the planning effort that’s gone into the rest of the city,” he said.

The city hasn’t created detailed plans for the future of his area, he said, which will complicate the discussion over potential development.